September 29, 2007

Thrown Into The Fire

Sept. 29, 2007

By Michelle Bradley
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Being from Texas, senior defensive back Obi Green knows football. He knows the mental and physical demands of the sport, and has refused to let them stand in the way of his athletic career.

His senior year has now arrived, and Green could not be more confident in his health, his role as a captain or his team.

Green's outlook on the season and the success he wants to see means knowing his role as a captain for Holy Cross. With many young players on the team this year, his primary advice for them is to relax and take it slow. Mentally everything is on a higher level for the freshmen, and Green makes sure that the new players stay focused on playing successful football.

"With the speed of the game, I talk to them one-on-one and on the field. I try to give them as much advice as possible," said Green. "I try not to be too hard on them -- I just try to keep them relaxed mentally."

"Obi is a positive influence and likes to help the younger players get adjusted. He voices his opinions and everyone accepts him in a positive way," said defensive coordinator Richard Rodgers.

One of three captains providing leadership for Holy Cross, Green brings his good work ethic and input into the attitude that is this team will be a contender for the league championship.

"I want to win a Patriot League championship -- anything short of that would be a failure in my eyes," said Green.

"He's absolutely right to have that attitude, and as one of our captains, he gives us the opportunity to do that," said Rodgers.

Expectations of the team and his coaches aside, Green's expectations for himself are to stay healthy and to be a good leader and role model for his team. The opportunity to work with two-year captain Casey Gough has given him a foundation to be the leader he is now for the squad.

"I took the opportunity to learn from Casey in the springtime, and then I went into my own way," said Green.

Former captains have also paved the way for Green to present himself in the way he feels a captain should be seen.

"We have had very good captains in the past. I have been very fortunate to see how a good leader should act and do things," said Green.

With his health back at 100 percent, and having reclaiming his starting position in the secondary, Green has already been putting up good defensive statistics so far this season. During Massachusetts' 40-30 victory over the Crusaders, Green recorded six solo tackles and one assisted tackle. Overall, he has 10 total tackles through three games, to go along with one pass breakup.

"We have always viewed Obi Green as a four-year starter. Starting as a freshman at safety is very rare," said head coach Tom Gilmore. "He has really progressed, understands the game really well, and is very cool under fire."

Perfecting his role as a defensive back, Green has grasped how much responsibility and knowledge of the game lies on the shoulders of the secondary.

"I believe the secondary is the strength of the defense. Coach Rodgers gives us a lot of freedom and puts the game in our hands," said Green. "It's on the secondary to make the decisions."

"Obi plays well within himself. If he stays solid, things will happen for him," said Rodgers.

Since middle school, Green has been serious about his football career and has always had the support from home. The youngest of four siblings and the only athlete of the family, his support comes from perspectives of those who were not athletes.

"My mom has a hard time watching me play and getting hit, but she has always been supportive," said Green.

His early foundation in the sport paid off once he reached high school, and obtained a starting position on the varsity squad as a sophomore. The opportunity to play college ball was introduced to Green after his junior year, when his talent was being noticed. The constant population of scouts at his games quickly got Green recruited and on his way to Holy Cross.

Just wanting to make the travel squad entering his freshman, Green had a chance to play right away due to a lack of depth in the secondary. It was not easy to make the quick transition from high school to college football, especially with the team's complex defensive plays, but regardless of the pressure, Green is glad to have that experience.

"It was all for good, it has made for a good foundation for the team playing now," said Green.

Knowing and playing football means knowing the consequences of injury. During the middle of his freshman year, Green suffered a shoulder injury, but continued playing for the remainder of the season.

During that 2004 season, he played in all 11 games, starting in the last 10. Throughout the year, he recorded 38 tackles, including 30 solo stops, and returned two kickoffs for 35 yards. In his sophomore year, the injury was still in Green's mind, but that did not stop him from continuing to play. He saw action in 10 games, starting in eight, and totaled 18 solo tackles on the year, with five pass breakups and a fumble recovery. That year also marked the improvement that now translates as success for the Crusader football team.

"We made a lot of improvements, and we were learning how to win," said Green. "We began to believe we were a winning team."

His shoulder injury finally benched Green after having surgery in between his sophomore and junior seasons. Recovering during his junior year was no easy task, physically or mentally.

"It was frustrating, especially at camp, when I could not go full contact," said Green. "It was hard not being able to practice. It was hard watching some else in my spot."

Despite missing time while recovering from surgery, Green still managed to get into every game with one start. During the season, he made 11 tackles, including eight solo stops, while breaking up three passes. Even tough he was not able to play as much as he would have liked as a junior, Green looks back on the year as a good learning experience.

"It was a good experience looking from the sidelines. I learned a lot from the coaching staff," said Green. "Watching the team play made me a better player and a better leader."

Graduating in the spring with a degree in world literature, Green plans to go into sales and marketing. And although he would not pass on the chance to play football professionally, he is prepared for the fact that his career on the gridiron could end this fall.

"If the opportunity is there, then I will play," said Green. "If not, I have no problem moving on without football."