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How our green got mean by Rufus Coleman
Fall 2004      

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Mean Green video memories

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How Our Green Got Mean

Voices of the Mean Green

An American Original

Academic vision


Whatever the origins of our Mean Green moniker, according to "Mean" Joe Greene ('69) — whose real name, by the way, is Charles — it wasn't his idea.

"I'm proud of the tie and my link to North Texas, but I was too busy playing when the chanting started," he adds. Greene, who played for North Texas from 1966 to 1968, inadvertently gave the nickname national prominence during his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There are at least two explanations for the origin of our "Mean Green" name.

One features North Texas basketball players Willie "Sleepy" Davis ('68) and Ira "Hotrod" Daniels ('69), a small bottle of alcohol and a football game in the '60s. Sleepy was recently anointed by some early Mean Green players to share his version.

He says one Saturday night, after indulging in a little wine at halftime of a North Texas football game, he and Daniels came back into Fouts Field.

"Of course North Texas was beating someone in football, and we were very avid supporters of the other athletics programs there — everybody supported everybody," he says. "Ira Daniels wasn't satisfied with the cheers, so he got up and started saying to the rest of us, the students sitting in this section, 'Mean Green, you look so good to me,' and we'd say, 'Mean Green.'"

The crowd repeated this over and over, and soon the cheerleaders on the field had stopped to listen, he says. Once they understood what was being said, they joined in.

"After that we did it every game," Davis says. "A lot of people later on started associating it with Joe because his last name was Greene, but it actually started with that simple chant that Saturday night at Fouts Field. And that's the truth."

A different Mean Green story also originates at a North Texas football game in the '60s, one that featured a "spectacular tackle" by Joe Greene.

"That's the way, Mean Greene!" were the words of Sidney Sue Graham ('57), wife of Fred Graham ('57), then the university's sports information director.

"It was merely a spontaneous cheer for an impressive play, but moments later the light bulb went off," she recalls. "I'd been thinking we needed a nickname. All the other really strong defensive units in the country had one."

So she mentally removed the "e" to make "Mean Green" apply to the entire defense.

"Fred said it was too corny," she says.

But he did refer to the "Mean Green Defensive Unit" in one of his press releases about the team, and the name caught on with sports writers.

"The following spring I was at the university bookstore and discovered Mean Green drinking glasses, T-shirts, candle-
holders, etc.," Fred Graham says. "I called an attorney friend and asked if it was too late to get a copyright on the Mean Green nickname on merchandise. His answer, unfortunately, was, 'Yes, too late.'"

When the newspapers first ran the story of how the Grahams arrived at the name, their son's second-grade teacher read it to his class. The boy yelled to his friends, "My mama named the Mean Green!"

However the nickname came to be, the fact remains that it stuck, and "Mean Green" is associated with North Texas teams today.
We're glad someone thought of it.

Next page: Mean Green memories


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