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We had Green all wrong


He was, arguably, the best block-and-catch tight end in the game for an all-too-short period of time in the 1990's. He was, without argument, the most impressive physical specimen his position had ever seen.

Eric Green was a lot of things as a player. Some said the few things he wasn't kept him from achieving an even higher plane of performance.

Frankly speaking, the guy could've been anything he wanted. He exploded defenders when he blocked them; the "Wham!" block was literally invented for him. He had the hands of a possession wide receiver, the grace of a great athlete, and the power to force even the biggest and toughest strong safeties to go below the knee. Ultimately, the latter cost Green his effectiveness. They cut him and cut him until his knees gave out.

What a player! What a talent! What a shame he spent much of his career as an oft-maligned and little-understood player. They should see him now.

The Eric Green of today is a slim, trim, erstwhile and ambitious young man embarking on a career as a football coach. He's 10 years a husband and five times a father. He carries himself along football sidelines with the same ease with which he played the game. These days, the smile on his face is wider than the lower body he once used to mash defensive backs.

"You would've been the last guy," his interviewer said, referring to Green's pursuit of the coaching ranks.

"A lot of people have told me the same thing," he said.

Thirteen years ago, Green and his interviewer collaborated on a magazine story. Green squeezed his 6-5, 280-pound frame into the interviewer's compact car and the two drove off to a local barber shop, where Green answered questions as he was having his hair trimmed.

A lot of time has passed since then.

"As you get older you get wiser. I was blessed with a heckuva career and I'm trying to put a new shoe on and make everybody believers," Green said.

He is the tight ends coach at the University of Central Florida. New UCF head coach George O'Leary got to know Green while the two were with the Minnesota Vikings, where Green was an aspiring intern. When O'Leary took the head job at UCF, he hired Green.

"My goal would be to be a head coach in some capacity," Green said as he stood along the sideline during the Jaguars' practice this morning. Green spent the weekend studying the Jaguars' practice regimen. The "Big Guy" is real serious about being a coach.

"I want to grow. Right now, I'm a sponge. I'm a human sponge right now," Green said.

Well, a lot of former players have moved on to the coaching ranks. It's just that Green wasn't a likely candidate to do the same. There was just something about him that wasn't coach-like. Maybe it was that he was so big and so talented that we all thought he was above the game. He wasn't an over-achiever and all coaches were over-achievers as players, right?

Well, maybe we had it wrong. Maybe we all had him wrong. Maybe "Big E" was a more dedicated and studious player than we gave him credit for being, and maybe we all owe him an apology for not appreciating him more fully.

"I don't think like these guys any more," he said, pointing out at a field full of Jaguars players. "I don't think like a 24-year-old any more; not being the selfish football player, athlete. I was a selfish football player early on."

Green is spending his time with the Jaguars learning from tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts, who was a position compatriot of Green's in the '90s. Roberts experienced his share of youth, too, and now both Green and Roberts are the leaders of young men.

Yeah, that's nice. It made for a nice thought on a Sunday morning.

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