David Greene is soft-spoken and personable. He's also one of the most successful first-year players in the University of Georgia's rich football history, and has the potential to become one of the nation's top gridiron standouts.
The 6-foot-3, 222-pound native of Lithonia, GA rose to the top of the 2001 season varsity quarterback depth chart after impressing the Bulldog coaching staff with a strong fall workout. For the most part, Greene performed more like a fifth-year senior than a redshirt freshman this past season. If he continues his current pace of production and avoids injuries, Greene seems destined to break most of Georgia's passing and total offense records before his collegiate career ends.
The first southpaw quarterback to start for Georgia since Charley Byars in 1956, Greene compiled impressive statistics during his freshman year. He finished fifth in the Southeastern Conference and 23rd nationally in passing efficiency while leading the Bulldogs to an 8-3 regular season record and a berth in the Music City Bowl.
Greene has developed a reputation for being a model of composure and poise. He is Green (e) in name only. As a general rule, he plays like a seasoned veteran with years of experience under his belt.
"I really don't know," stated Greene when asked how he stays so calm under pressure. "I used to get nervous playing football in high school. I told myself, 'You've got to stay calm if you're going to play to your potential.' Now, I don't really have a problem with staying calm. I always try to keep my composure regardless of what I'm doing, and not get mad or upset.
"My parents (Rick and Kay Greene) and sister (Leslie) can get really emotional at ballgames, screaming, yelling and the whole bit. I just try to remember that a quarterback is a team leader who has to remain calm at all times and have the ability to make decisions in the team's best interest very quickly. When you know you have to do something, I think it makes it a lot easier to do. I really don't have a formula for staying calm under pressure, I just always try to do so."
Greene was the SEC's third-leading passer with 263.7 yards per game. He completed an amazing 62 percent of his passes (192 of 324) for 2,789 yards and 17 touchdowns, while throwing just nine interceptions during the 2001 regular season (the NCAA does not count bowl statistics among season statistics). Greene set the school single-season record for most yards and touchdowns passing by a freshman. He had 2,830 total offensive yards. For his outstanding play, Greene was selected SEC Freshman of the Year in voting by league coaches.
Greene made a spectacular debut against Arkansas State, completing 21 of 29 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns (25 and 13 yards). He completed his first 11 passes, which fell only four completions short of the school record held by Quincy Carter (versus LSU 1998) and Eric Zeier (versus Georgia Tech 1993).
He completed 21 of 33 passes for 169 yards with one interception against South Carolina, and then delivered an outstanding performance versus Arkansas, connecting on 20 of 37 passes for 298 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
|David Greene of Georgia throws a pass during the game against Florida at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. Florida won 24-10. Credit: Andy Lyons/Allsport|
He completed 21 of 34 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns with one interception against the Volunteers. He was six of seven for 133 yards and one touchdown in the fourth quarter. With Georgia trailing 24-20 and just 42 seconds remaining, Greene directed the Bulldogs on a five-play, 59-yard game-winning touchdown drive culminated with his six yard scoring toss to running back Verron Hayes with only five seconds left.
Greene then surpassed his career high in passing yards for the second consecutive week at Vanderbilt, throwing for 305 and two touchdowns (58, 17 yards) on 19 of 26 marksmanship. He posted a career-best mark in passing yards for the third time in as many weeks versus Kentucky, completing 22 of 36 aerials for 364 yards. He tossed a career-high three touchdowns (68, 56, 5 yards) in Georgia's 43-29 win over the Wildcats.
He threw for 258 yards on 25 of 42 accuracy and one interception against Florida. He also had an impressive performance in a 24-17 loss to Auburn, completing 15 of 32 passes for 294 yards with one interception and a pair of touchdowns (67, 56 yards). Greene completed 11 of 24 passes for 210 yards in Georgia's 31-17 victory at Georgia Tech, before finishing the regular season by connecting on 9 of 17 passes for three touchdowns and one interception in the Bulldogs 35-7 rout of Houston.
Greene seemed to lose some momentum of his quality play the second half of the season. In his first six games, all as the starter, he threw for 1,724 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. In the last six games, he threw for 1,353 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions. Against Boston College in the Music City Bowl, Greene completed 22 of 38 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown. However, he had two interceptions that led to Eagle points in Georgia's 20-16 loss. But in fairness, his passing yardage was less in the latter half of the season because of the emergence of Haynes and the Bulldog running game.
Because of his demonstrated ability, many feel Greene can still be one of the best quarterbacks in school history, which would rank him alongside mere mortals such as Johnny Rauch, Zeke Bratkowski, Francis Tarkenton and Eric Zeier. And the fact Georgia will have arguably the nation's finest overall cast of receivers and tight ends in 2002 with such players as Fred Gibson, Terrence Edwards, Damien Gary and Ben Watson should further help Greene achieve that lofty status.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt has said that heralded freshman D.J. Shockley will have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job in 2002 after redshirting this past season. However, Richt has made it clear that the job is Greene's to lose. And it seems illogical to bench someone who performed well enough to earn SEC Freshman Player of The Year honors.
Greene feels competition for the starting quarterback post can be a positive.
"In a way it's exciting because the competition will make D.J., myself and the other quarterbacks better players," Greene, an Arts and Sciences major, said. "I'm proud of the fact I have played well in some games. But I know there are areas of the game I have a lot to work on and I will continue to do so to become a more complete player. I'm not satisfied. If Georgia had gone undefeated and won the national championship, I would be more inclined to be satisfied.
"I'm a team player and I'm much more interested in how much the team accomplishes than what I accomplish. That's what playing football is all about--it's a team game."
Greene started playing quarterback in the Gwinnett County,