Packers great Forrest Gregg, 'finest player' Vince Lombardi coached, dies at 85

Forrest Gregg, one of the pillars of the Green Bay Packers dynasty of the 1960s and one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history, died at age 85.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame, of which Gregg is a member, announced Friday that Gregg had died. Gregg was inducted into the Hall in 1977.

Gregg also spent 11 seasons as an NFL head coach with the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Packers, taking the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI. He also returned to his alma mater, SMU, to coach and revive that program after it was given the infamous death penalty.

But Gregg is best known for his prowess at offensive tackle for the Packers. Vince Lombardi called him the “finest player” he had ever coached.

Forrest Gregg was one of the toughest players of his era

Gregg was known for his toughness, as a player and a coach. He battled Parkinson’s disease late in his life with the same toughness. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011. After he was diagnosed, he worked to increase awareness and education of the disease. Before that, Gregg beat melanoma in 1976 and colon cancer in 2001, according to the Associated Press.

Gregg’s toughness was how he survived as a 249-pound tackle, which was considered undersized even for that era. He played a then-record 188 straight games between 1956 until 1971, his final season that he spent with the Dallas Cowboys. It’s obvious why he was a Lombardi favorite.

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CANTON, OH - AUGUST 04: Brian Dawkins poses with his bust during the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 4, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 04: Ray Lewis unveils his bust along with daughter Diaymon Lewis during the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 4, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 04: Ray Lewis poses with his bust along with daughter Diaymon Lewis during the 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 4, 2018 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 04: Emcee Chris Berman addresses the crowd during the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on August 4, 2018, at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 04: Randy Moss poses for photographers next to his Hall of Fame bust after he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on August 4, 2018, at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CANTON, OH - AUGUST 04: Robert Brazile points into the crowd as he makes his speech during the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on August 4, 2018, at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Aug 4, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018 enshrinee Ray Lewis during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Bensen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos former safety Brian Dawkins poses with bust during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Bensen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2018; Canton, OH, USA;Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers former receiver Randy Moss speaks during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Bensen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Gregg brought that attitude to his coaching career. His hard-nosed style was a reason he was hired to turn around the Bengals, and he ended up leading them to an AFC championship.

"Forrest was, in the eyes of the players, a no-nonsense disciplinarian," Bengals owner and president Mike Brown told Cincinnati.com in 2017. "We happened to be personal friends away from football. And Forrest has a heart as big as an elephant's. He's a softy at heart. A wonderful guy. I'm deeply fond of him. But around the players, they weren't sure. They jumped when he said 'boo.'"

Gregg was a seven-time All-Pro

By any measure, Gregg was one of the most accomplished offensive linemen ever.

Gregg was a seven-time All-Pro, and made nine Pro Bowls. He was on the NFL’s all-decade team of the 1960s, and the NFL’s all-time team for the league’s 75th anniversary. He won five NFL championships with the Packers, including the first two Super Bowls.

"I was lucky in my career," Gregg told the Houston Chronicle in 2017. "Being in that first Super Bowl probably was the most memorable of them all.”

Though Gregg mostly was a tackle, he’d fill in at guard when needed. In 1965 he was named All-Pro at guard by one poll, and All-Pro at tackle by another service.

“The game lost a giant today. Forrest Gregg exemplified greatness during a legendary career that earned him a bronzed bust in Canton,” Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. “He was the type of player who led by example and, in doing so, raised the level of play of all those around him. Forrest symbolized many great traits and virtues that can be learned from this game to inspire people from all walks of life.”

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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