Illini Land Speedster Running Back Green

There are always last minute surprises in any football recruiting class. Some players wait until the last day to decide on a college, and some change their minds. Fortunately for Illinois, star Louisville running back Justin Green decommitted from Ohio State in favor of Ron Zook's program. He will bring outstanding speed and playmaking ability to the offensive backfield.

Illinois football coach Ron Zook was ecstatic when Louisville Male running back Justin Green signed with the Illini. But he knew how hard a decision it was for the young man.

"Poor guy, he's probably been beat up the last few days. He's a great person and very close to his family. His older brother was an Ohio State grad four years ago. So there was a lot of pressure to go to Ohio State. But in his heart, this is what he wanted to do. Coach (Kurt) Beathard kind of just stayed on him."

Justin expanded on his decision making process.

"It surely wasn't easy. It was stressful. I really didn't know what to do. At times, I kind of didn't want to go to college. But I kind of looked at the big picture. The big thing I want to do is get an education. I had the opportunity to go pretty much to any college. You can't lose with a free education. Football isn't everything. If I've got a free education, everything else will fall into place.

"My mind has been changing every day. But at the end of the day, its where I feel more comfortable. I'd been there a couple times, and I felt comfortable around the people. I had a good feel from the coaches. That was the biggest thing."

Zook recruited Green strictly as a running back despite his modest 5'-11", 178 pound size.

"He wanted to be a running back. From the very beginning, we felt he was one of those guys that you put the ball in his hands and he can do an awful lot of things. He's a lot bigger than people think. He can run, he's a track guy. The last two years, he's won the 100 in the state of Kentucky. He's very skilled."

Green's preference for running back over defensive back was a big reason for his decommitment from Ohio State as they wanted him as a defender.

"I've had offers from Northwestern, Wake Forest, Purdue and schools like that for me to play running back. It just comes natural to me."

His style is ideal for the spread formation.

"I'm a find a crack and go type back. I don't like to do much dancing around. I try to use my speed. I'm alright at catching the ball, but I think I need to work on my hands more to be more consistent."

Coach Zook was amazed at how many recruiting experts labeled Green primarily as a defensive back.

"He never played defensive back. He was rated in the top 5 or 6 in the country at defensive back but never played defensive back. He's an athletic guy. I'm not saying he can't play defense, but he's a running back. We've never considered him anything but that."

Actually, Justin played a number of positions. But running back is his first best destiny.

"I've played a little bit at defensive back, but mostly in tournaments," Green explains. "My junior year, I played cornerback sparingly. My senior year, I played middle linebacker, running back, receiver. I played safety a little bit."

Justin isn't just Kentucky's two time 100 meter champion. He is a bonafide track star.

"I was fortunate enough to bring home the gold with the 100, 200, 400 and the 4 X 400 team. I was tired, I was beat. It was worth it. All the work you put in, you wonder why you're doing this. But at the end you see the results, and it makes you want to work even harder."

Justin is also a serious student. He hasn't picked a major yet. He has several interests, and he hopes to make a decision by the time he enrolls in summer school.

Justin Green might be the difference maker running back the Illini have been seeking since Rashard Mendenhall left for the pros.

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