The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project running through mid-July detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
The premise was brilliant: After he drank a Coca-Cola, Joe Greene was introduced to America as a man who wasn’t so mean. The TV commercial captured viewers’ hearts everywhere when it first aired in October 1979 and then again during Super Bowl XIV—the fourth championship won by Greene’s Steelers.
A cornerstone of Pittsburgh’s famed Steel Curtain defensive front, Mean Joe Greene had a reputation that matched his hulking 6-foot-4, 275-pound frame. But as he’s limping off the field in the commercial, he’s offered a Coke by an awestruck kid and suddenly turns sunny. Green tosses the boy his jersey while shouting the classic line, “Hey kid, catch!” Greene’s surge in popularity lasted well beyond his 13-year, 10-Pro Bowl career—and the fact that a Steelers player was picked to sell Coca-Colas (and a smile) meant something, too. The ’70s were the Steelers’ dynasty years, when Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Greene won four championships together in six seasons, and the team’s tough, blue-collar image was embraced far beyond western Pennsylvania.
— Jenny Vrentas