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If anyone is the perfect person to inspire the unheralded and unrecruited high school athlete, it's Darrell Green, the diminutive defensive back who defied the odds and turned his world-class speed into a magnificent pro football career.
|Darrell Green finished his career with 54 interceptions and two Super Bowl titles.|
Most great track athletes who take up football rarely have impactful careers. In fact, Green is possibly in a class with only Bob Hayes as an equal on the track and gridiron.
The self-proclaimed "itty-bitty" 5-foot-9, 180-pound Green went from being a walk-on on his high school JV football team to a career in the National Football League that's left many experts considering him as one of the greatest cornerbacks ever to play the game.
It all culminated this past summer in Canton, Ohio, when Green was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Green is the first Hall of Famer to be profiled in this series, which is designed to inspire those current high school athletes who aren't being recruited by colleges. Green was definitely in that category, but it did not prevent him from becoming an NFL Hall of Famer.
A native of Houston, Green was born Feb. 15, 1960, and attended Jesse H. Jones High School in Houston. While he was all-state in track, it wasn't until his junior year at Jones that he made the junior-varsity football team as a walk-on.
It was in his senior season that Green began to excel in football and was named all-city.
Still, it didn't land him a big-time college offer. He attended Texas A&I (now Texas A&M-Kingsville), where he ran track and played football.
Green distinguished himself further in football at A&I. In 1982, he was selected All-American after making 56 tackles with four interceptions and returning two punts for touchdowns in a senior season in which he was selected a captain by his teammates.
Track and field however, is where Green made his biggest impact at the collegiate level.
In track and field at A&I, Green set multiple national and Lone Star Conference records and earned 10 All-American certificates. His 100-meter time of 10.8 in a 1982 meet is a mark that still stands as the all-time best in the conference, and as a sophomore, Green defeated multiple Olympic medal winner Carl Lewis in the 100 meters in the only time the two raced against each other.
Although his college times eventually could have earned a silver medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Green chose football over track, a decision he explained to Christine Brennan of the Washington Post in 1987:
|Green was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.|
"I felt I could have made the last Olympic team if I hadn't gone into football. It was a great choice to go to the NFL, but I could have beaten anyone in the Olympics in Los Angeles. If I get a chance to run in the Olympics, you better believe I'd go for that. Bob Hayes is the only football player to be the world's fastest man. Hayes won the 1964 Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters. I'd like to be that, too."
Because he had one of the fastest collegiate 100-meter times, plus just enough size, leaping ability and strength for his height, Green was drafted in the first round (28th overall) of the 1983 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins.
It was the perfect match for Green -- he played his entire 20-year NFL career with the Redskins, a record he shares with Jackie Slater of the Rams.
During his career, Green accumulated a plethora of awards and honors, including:
• Seven-time Pro Bowl selection
• Four-time All-Pro
• Member of NFL's 1990s All-Decade team
• 1996 Walter Payton Man of the Year
• 1997 Bart Starr Award
• Two-time Super Bowl champion
• Member, Redskins Ring of Fame and 70 Greatest Redskins
Green's career statistics include 54 interceptions for 621 yards with six touchdowns. He also holds the record for having 19 seasons with at least one interception.
Not included in those statistics are the countless times he broke up passes or ran down the NFL's fastest receivers and running backs.
Even before his retirement, Green was doing charitable work in the community that continues today.
To play 20 years in the NFL with the same team, while avoiding injuries, to post a Hall of Fame career is an almost unbelievable achievement.
Especially for an unknown prep who was a walk-on to his high school JV squad.
Now, Green continues to help others achieve the same goals and dreams as he's accomplished.
Harold Abend covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.