Catching Up With: GREG BLUE
Originally published March 2016. Updated March 2020.
Before becoming arguably the biggest-hitting headhunter in Georgia football history, Greg Blue was a first-team All-State defensive back at College Park’s Banneker High School. After redshirting at UGA in 2001, Blue was one of only 11 players to letter on each of the Bulldogs’ 2002 through 2005 teams—a class that achieved a 44-9 overall record.
In four seasons, including his final two as Georgia’s starting roverback, Blue totaled 260 tackles, 7-1/2 for loss, 12 passes broken up, 13 quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two interceptions. But what Blue is likely most remembered for doesn’t show up on the stat sheet: bringing his wrath upon opposing ball-carriers.
After earning consensus first-team All-America honors as a senior in 2005 (only one other Georgia defender earned consensus first-team status from 2006-2016), Blue played in both the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions, and the Canadian Football League for the Toronto Argonauts—a professional career unfortunately marred by injuries. Still, he has been able to remain working in the sport. Yet while he was once respected for his hits, now its for his coaching. Entering his 11th season of roaming the sidelines, six of those have been in the state he has called home for most of his life.
UGASports caught up with Greg Blue from his football office at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Georgia:
UGASports: Greg, as a relatively highly-touted player out of high school, why did you decide to attend Georgia (of the 14 defensive players in Richt’s first class, none were Rivals 5-star prospects, and only two—Blue and defensive end Darrell Holmes—were 4-star signees)?
Blue: Actually I was a “Prop player” (Proposition 48: a regulation stipulating minimum grades and test scores a student-athlete must achieve in high school to participate athletically in college), so a lot of schools didn’t think I’d qualify. Therefore they slowly fell off from recruiting me. I remember N. C. State recruited me pretty hard, and so did [then-defensive line coach] Rodney Garner at Georgia. But, what probably really did it for me was my defensive coordinator in high school, George Brewer, who had played for the Bulldogs (1989, 1991). He brought me [to Athens] a lot of weekends, and I just fell in love with the place and the players. I felt like the players were just like me, and I seemed to fit right in.
UGASports: We have to ask, where did you get your hard-hitting approach to playing?
Blue: It’s just how I played, beginning in pee wee football. I grew up playing football in the streets against older kids, so I got my toughness from that. I learned to play aggressively.
UGASports: Besides headhunting, you also played all over the place, so to speak (Blue is one of only a handful of Georgia players in history to total at least a dozen pass breakups and a dozen quarterback hurries in a career). Did you grow up playing all over the place?
Blue: Yes, especially in high school. I played linebacker as a freshman on the JV squad, but then I moved myself to safety, because I wanted the women to be able to see me playing on the back end (laughing). But, seriously, even while playing safety, there were times I’d line up in a three-point stance at defensive end.
UGASports: What was the transition like, playing under Brian VanGorder as your defensive coordinator for your first four years, only to have him leave and Willie Martinez follow as the defensive coordinator for your senior season?
Blue: When Coach VanGorder left, it was kind of too bad. But, I was really comfortable with Coach Martinez because he had been my [position] coach beforehand. I thought Coach Martinez was a great coach, and with him being the new defensive coordinator, it actually gave me a little more freedom.
UGASports: What does it mean to you to be a part of the 2002-2005 class—one of the greatest in UGA football history?
Blue: Man, we had some tough guys in that class—some tough jokers. It seems like in college football now, it’s all about finding the 5-stars (prospects), but back then—that particular class—we were blue-collar. I don’t think we had many 5-star types, just blue-collar guys. We all loved the game, and we were all just going to do whatever it took to represent the “G.”
UGASports: Team accomplishments aside, what was your biggest on-field personal achievement as a Bulldog?
Blue: Honestly, I think my biggest achievement was when I was named first-team All-American, because I doubt there were many people who originally thought that would happen. Throughout my four seasons of playing, I tried to prove people wrong, and there were a lot of doubters. But, to be named All-American my senior year and following in the footsteps of Sean Jones and Thomas Davis (Georgia All-Americans at defensive back in 2003 and 2004, respectively), that was a really big honor for me.
UGASports: So you were selected in the 5th round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Fifth-round—did that seem kind of low to you?
Blue: I honestly took the process for granted. I didn’t train as hard as I probably could have, and I had a bad Pro Day. So even though I thought I was better than a fifth-round player at the time, I deserved being picked there. Even so, I remember thinking that I still was going to play about 10 years in the league.
UGASports: It's interesting speaking to relatively low draft picks, who unfortunately were hurt and didn’t last long in the NFL. They usually have a good viewpoint of the NFL as a “business.” What’s your take?
Blue: I’ll tell you a difference between playing college football [on scholarship] and playing in the NFL: In college, you have a guaranteed four-five years even if you get hurt, and can come back from injury. In the NFL, and even in the CFL, if you get hurt, and are not making a lot of money, they’ll just find the next guy. So once I got hurt in Detroit [in 2008], I hurried back too fast to have a tryout with Cincinnati, and the tryout didn’t go so well. That was my NFL career. Once I got hurt, and the workout didn’t go well, that was it. I was in Canada playing for the Toronto Argonauts (2009-2010), but eventually got hurt there, too. And they just found the next guy to fill my roster spot.
UGASports: Where did you go from there?
Blue: I tore my Achilles up in Toronto but, fortunately for me, I was offered a coaching job within a few days of that happening. Around that time, my wife and I had twin boys, so I decided playing football was probably no longer for me, so I went to Plan B: coaching football.
UGASports: Please tell me about your family.
Blue: My wife’s name is Kendall. I met her in Minnesota, where she's from. We have twin boys, Shaun and Christian. We also have a little girl, Aliyah, and she turned five on March 3rd.
UGASports: How long have you been coaching football? Where are you now, and where were you before that?
Blue: I’m entering my 11th year of coaching, and the sixth at Reinhardt University in Waleska, Ga. Before that [in 2014], I was at Kentucky Christian University as the defensive coordinator. In 2013, I was at Marshall University as defensive quality control and as a recruiting assistant. And, before Marshall, I coached at Eagan High School (Minnesota) and Waldorf College (Iowa).
UGASports: We're guessing as a college football assistant coach, you have very little time to continue to be closely associated with the UGA football program?
Blue: Yeah, pretty much. Although several summers ago, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the UGA Countdown to Kickoff event. And, when I was coaching at Kentucky Christian, Georgia was playing in Lexington during a weekend, and I was invited to come talk to the team—to represent the "G" once again.