Before there was Tom Brady as a heralded sixth-round draft pick that outworked and out prepared everyone, there was Pittsburgh Steelers’ standout pass rusher Greg Lloyd.
Lloyd, who holds a place in the Steelers’ Hall of Honor and the All-Time Team, was a sixth-round pick in 1987 at No. 150 overall out of Fort Valley State, then an overlooked HBCU program. Once with Pittsburgh, nobody truly overlooked Lloyd anymore as he became one of the most feared linebackers in the NFL while in the black and gold.
That can largely be credited to the hard work put in and mindset possessed by Lloyd during his playing career. Appearing on 1010 XL/92.5 FM in Jacksonville Wednesday morning with former Steelers’ teammate Leon Searcy, Lloyd stated that he had a mindset of not letting anyone outwork him in his career, both in the building and across the league, which led to his meteoric rise into a three-time First Team All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler with the Steelers.
“I’ll be honest with you: I played with a chip on my shoulder. I’m gonna tell you, I went to [an] HBCU, had all the stats coming out of Fort Valley to be a first-round draft choice. And they drafted me in the sixth round,” Lloyd said to Searcy, according to audio via 92.5 FM in Jacksonville. “Everybody knows the Tom Brady story. I’m not Tom Brady, but I was that guy. And so when I come into the league and I see all these boys coming in first round draft choice, they making million dollars and they bust, they bombed, they’re garbage.
“My thing was, I gotta continue to play, but I gotta keep making these people understand that you didn’t just draft me in the sixth round; you got lucky…”
There’s no denying that the Steelers got lucky with their selection of Lloyd, who was the 28th linebacker taken at that point in the 1987 NFL Draft, which featured names like Shane Conlan and Cornelius Bennett in the first round, Winston Moss in the second round, Michael Brooks in the third round, Don Graham in the fourth round, and Hardy Nickerson in the fifth round before Lloyd came off the board to the Steelers.
Once in Pittsburgh, Lloyd really let that chip lead the way for him as he became the hardest worker in the room, consistently staying on the field after practice working on his craft, taking martial arts lessons to improve his hand fighting and overall explosiveness and truly develop into the absolute force he became in the Steel City after he became the starting outside linebacker in the black and gold in 1989, where he remind through 1997.
In that span, Lloyd recorded 53.5 sacks with the Steelers, including a career-high 10.0 in 1994, making his second straight First Team All-Pro list and a fourth straight Pro Bowl, all while earning a third-place finish in the Associated Press’s Defensive Player of the Year ballot after leading the league in forced fumbles with five.
That success was in large part due to Lloyd finding something he loved and was willing to put the work in at.
“My main objective was just outwork people,” Lloyd said to Searcy Wednesday morning, according to audio via 1011 XL/92.5 FM in Jacksonville. “I didn’t mind. Like I say, if somebody wanted to do something extra after practice, I didn’t mind. I think a couple of times a couple of days in training camp, I would always get John Jackson or I would get Tunch [Ilkin] and we would workout after practice. But my thing was, I wasn’t just outworking people. You find something that you love to do, and if you don’t want anybody to take your spot, you gotta do what’s better than the next guy coming in.
“Cause you understand next year they’re drafting somebody else in your spot, you know?” Lloyd added. “And then the next year they’re drafting somebody else in your spot. So if you want to do it for 12 years you’re gonna have to do something different.”
Lloyd did something different for 10 seasons with the Steelers, becoming the heart and soul of the Steelers’ defense during the Blitzburgh era under head coach Bill Cowher and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau before eventually giving way to Chad Brown and Jason Gildon in the late 90s.