- Dave Hooker, Reporter, RecruitingNation
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BALTIMORE -- Two years ago, Derrick Green looked nothing like an invitee to The Opening. As a matter of fact, he didn't even look like a tailback.
Green, who now is 6-foot and 215 pounds, was once a 5-8, 268-pound offensive lineman. Suffice to say, Green, a running back from Richmond (Va.) Heritage who ranks as the nation's No. 83 player, worked hard secure his ticket to The Opening.
"It's a big opportunity for me," Green said about the invitation to the elite camp that features many of the nation's top high school football recruits. "I'm just blessed they picked me to represent Virginia. I'm just going to go out there and compete."
Green was selected after he participated in Saturday's Nike Football Training Camp at McDaniel College in Baltimore.
"I felt like I did real well," he said. "I was catching all my balls. My footwork was on point. I excelled in everything."
That wasn't always the case, especially when he was a chunky high school freshman.
Green, a four-star prospect, decided to lose the extra weight for two reasons. First, a coach with a good eye for talent noticed that even though Green was pudgy, he was still fast. Even at 268 pounds, he clocked a 5.0-seconds time in 40-yard dash. So Green was moved to fullback, where he got a taste of carrying the ball. Then, he met with a trainer in the offseason who asked him what position he played.
"I told him I was a running back and he said, 'Nah, I don't see a running back. I see a defensive tackle or something,'" Green said with his trademark chuckle. "My only words to him were, 'I'm going to show you.' I worked hard with him, lost the weight and cut it down. I just knew I couldn't be a running back at 268 and run a 5-flat. I had to do what I had to do."
Green's dedication to diet and training hasn't just moved the scale. It has moved massive amounts of weight. Green bench presses 330 pounds, squats 600 pounds and dead-lifts 615.
"Everybody says that's not legit, but we have a legit trainer that came from UVa," he said. "He makes sure you get low [on squats] and all that."
So how did Green, who ran for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, transform his body? Forget Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. He just went with healthy eating and exercising to become phat in the recruiting world.
For a recent interview, Green came to a restaurant and passed on a meal. He had already eaten his very planned-out lunch. Green also couldn't stay long. He had a yoga class to get to.
Aside from the usual work with his team, Green trains hours every week and maintains his weight by eating as many as three salads a day. As for fried foods, they're a thing of the past. Green drinks only water and will pass on soft drinks faster than he can run the 40.
How often does he splurge on his diet?
And when he does, he makes sure he pays for it the next day in the gym.
"The next day I was working out getting that weight off from that chicken I ate," he said of a recent time he veered off his diet.
Astonishingly, Green lost the 50-plus pounds in less than three months and has kept it off. Obviously, it has helped his game.
"I'm shifty, more powerful, more explosive and a lot faster," Green said. "I can make people miss and get through the holes a lot faster than my freshman year."
But don't start to think of Green as an all-purpose guy. He prefers to be known as a power back. He said he's never had the tendency to bounce runs outside in high school as so many top prospects tend to do.
"I was always downhill," he said. "If you look at my film, I'm not really a bounce guy. I'm a one-cut-and-go, real straight, north-south runner and I have the speed to kick it up in sixth gear. All that bouncing and shaking, I wouldn't say that was me. If you're in the way, I'm going to blow you up. I'm not going to try to shake you.
"At my school, they call me 'The Freight Train.' I like that a lot. I'm going to run you over and let you know I'm here. I'm coming."
Green and his family said he has consistently run the 40-yard dash in the 4.3 area. That wouldn't have happened at 268 pounds. Moreover, the weight loss wouldn't have happened had his family not been so supportive. The menu in the Green household has changed, causing Green's parents to lose a few pounds, as well.
"My husband and I said we just have to be more motivated because Derrick wants to change and break the cycle of diabetes and high blood pressure in the family, so we all decided we're just going to sacrifice some things we really like sometimes," Green's mother, Fran Green, said.
Green's father, Chris Green, doesn't just have to eat different. He's also often pulled into training with his son.
When Derrick read on a website that he didn't catch the ball well, father and son were outside working on pass-receiving for hours after work and school.
"He wanted to get better, so we had to take the time to get him better," Chris Green said. "The next camp he went to, they were saying he had hands good enough to play wide receiver. He accomplished that. He got over that hurdle."
Derrick led his family to better health, and he's also trying to inspire his teammates. He used to be the only player to run laps after practice. Now most of the team is joining him. When he gets his allowance, it's already spent. He buys food -- probably salad -- for the team on Wednesday evenings while they study game video. He takes his offensive linemen to Golden Corral if the team wins on Friday night.
As for a social life, don't expect to see Green at a night club. Aside from the occasional school-sponsored dance, it's all faith, family and football. Going out and partying doesn't fit the plan.
"He doesn't have an interest in those types of things," Fran Green said. "With the football team, he's making sure they stay out of trouble. He's a positive leader and motivator in that way."
The most surprising scholarship offer Green has received so far came from Oregon last month. Mom didn't even see that one coming.
"He was excited about Oregon," Fran Green said. "I was telling him, 'You're a big back. They don't run big backs.' So when he got the offer, he said, 'I told you, Ma.'"
The Oregon offer has given Green a lot to think about.
"I definitely know that's a school that's producing backs," Green said. "They run the ball. I spoke to the running back coach. He told me about the running back position at Oregon. That's definitely a school that's going to get the ball to the running back and run it."
Green isn't offering any hints as to where he'll end up other than he'd like to cut down his list soon. He said he'll visit Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Arkansas this summer and would like a scholarship offer from Alabama, which has shown interest lately but already has two tailbacks committed.
Green said he really enjoyed a second visit to Clemson last month and likes tough, run-first offenses at Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but don't expect much more information than that, other than what he's looking for out of a prospective college.
"Academics are first and foremost because I promised my mother I'd get my degree before I even think about going off to the NFL," Green said. "Another important factor will be atmosphere, when I go visit. How is the atmosphere? I've got to have a good relationship with the coaching staff and mesh real well with those guys, as well as the players."
So what happens if Mel Kiper and Todd McShay tab Green as a high pick after three years in college? Will he stay in school?
"Yeah, I've got to," Green said. "I know the NFL is not going to be forever, so I've got to have that fallback. That degree is going to be my fallback, so I've got to get that."
Perhaps the best plan is for Green, who hopes to graduate from high school in December and enroll in college in January, is to graduate from college in three years and then enter the NFL draft after his junior season.
Want to see that happen? Just tell him he can't do it.
Four-star RB Derrick Green renovated his life off the field, helping him become a success on it, writes Dave Hooker.