“As I tried to open my eyes, I felt the numbness going down my legs. I really couldn't feel my hands,” Treyvon Green told PW last August. “I was terrified. I didn't know if I was going to play football again.”
Thirteen whirlwind months later, Green saw the hole paved through the A-gap and torched Western Michigan for a 42-yard touchdown, his second of the night and sixth of the season. So yes, Treyvon Green is certainly playing football again.
“It’s been a little rocky, honestly, with the season I had last year...It was a tough road but my teammates are like my family, they always have my back,” he said after pacing the Wildcats Saturday with a career-high 158 rushing yards on just 20 carries.
Through three weeks, the junior running back’s stat line looks awfully close to what was expected of All-American Venric Mark. And as the Cats attempt to rise up the polls, Green is looking less like a plug-in; his ascent less surprising with each impressive cut through an opposing front seven.
Originally in line to claim the starting running back spot in 2012, Green’s training camp concussion shelved a promising season and opened the door for Mark’s decorated year.
Things began to improve in the annual spring scrimmage, where he excited with his lateral quickness. After coaches asked Green to lose weight—something that he said was “just sprung on me”—he turned up the hustle this summer and clawed his way back into the two-deep.
“He had a look in his eye and an attitude about him all offseason that said he was not satisfied with his role a year ago,” Pat Fitzgerald said. “He’s not going to let any circumstances derail him.”
Interestingly enough, Green’s game isn’t all that dissimilar from Mark’s. Both stand a few notches below six feet, tout form footwork at the line of scrimmage, and are tough to catch when they hit the open field.
Most importantly, both are smart runners: on that second touchdown Saturday, Green found space between Brandon Vitable and Geoff Mogus, though both were engaging straight toward their assignment.
No pinches or unusual schemes, just a running back with a high motor finding the right angle to daylight.
“He’s looking faster, stronger, more explosive. I’m incredibly happy for him,” Fitzgerald added. “He’s a young man who’s worked very hard on overcoming adversity. You love seeing great guys have success.”
That success won’t stop here, regardless of Mark’s return or the beginning of an arduous conference schedule. In the same way that they’ve balanced two uniquely talented quarterbacks, the Cats will deploy both Green and Mark in the backfield when the latter is healthy. As Fitzgerald says, “the weight is going to get heavier” for a player that’s already emerged from a world of obstacles.
When Mark returns, Green may make more sense on third downs, where he’s averaging more than 6.1 yards per carry this season and already has two of his five rushing touchdowns. With a good two inches and 40 pounds on Mark, Green’s a better pass blocking option who’s begun to show his prowess in the screen game.
But Green's also proven to be an effective runner in between the guards, something that defenses will be forced to respect and a nice counter to Colter’s read option and Mark’s sideline-to-sideline bounces. Half of Green’s total scores have come on first downs, meaning that he may be used to send a message on opening drives and first plays. While Venric Mark’s name still has that ring to it, don’t be surprised if Green starts the game.
But Kain Colter says he doesn’t notice much of a difference between the two backs lining up behind him. With the playcalling catered to the personnel, Colter is confident that each one will deliver.
“Trey’s made an argument for when ‘V’ comes back, that maybe he deserves a starting role,” he said Saturday. “Both of them will be competing, and that will make both of them better.”
It will make Northwestern’s offense considerably better. As if the Wildcat ground game wasn’t tough enough to defend with Colter and Mark, Green gives the team an important, physical third dimension that still has big-play potential on every carry.
“You’ve seen us play with how many tailbacks at a time?” Fitzgerald asked while cracking a smile.
Answering that question will make opponents tougher than Western Michigan crack a sweat.