TAMPA - If you're looking for someone to tell a secret, Shonn Greene might just be your man.
The Iowa running back decided a several days ago that he was leaving for the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining. He told his coach, Kirk Ferentz, as the two were walking from the locker room to the media room here on Thursday.
"I didn't know," said Ferentz, after the Hawkeyes disposed of South Carolina, 31-10, in the Outback Bowl. "As I've told him several times, I just want what's best for our players."
And going to the NFL is what's best for Greene. Yes, it's debatable. But in the end, the New Jersey native had nothing left to prove.
"I don't think you can have a better season," fellow Iowa all-American Mitch King said. "He might have come back with 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, but why do you need to? He's going to be drafted high, he's going to make a lot of money and he's going to do well."
Greene racked up 121 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries against the Gamecocks. He finished with Iowa single-season records for yards (1,850) and touchdowns (20).
"Really, I don't think there's a lot more that I could do here," Greene said. "People talk about the Heisman thing, but that's a lot of politics and I don't want to get into all of that. So, I just figured I'd try my chances."
South Carolina presented one of the top defenses in the country and stacked the box to stop Greene. The New Jersey native responded with his 13th game this season in which he rushed for at least 100 yards. He was the only Division I back to accomplish the feat this season.
"I think his stock is pretty high right now," Iowa Lineman Seth Olsen said. "I don't blame him for wanting to capitalize on that."
Research done by an NFL advisory board for the draft and Ferentz produced an estimate that a team would scoop up Greene within the first two rounds of the draft. He said he was told he could go as high as the 20th overall pick.
A few Hawkeyes suggested that Greene may have decided on his future, although maybe not finalized it, a while ago.
"He wasn't coming back," Iowa Center Rob Bruggeman said. "He just wasn't telling you guys. There are so many reasons for him not to come back that if he did it would have been foolish. I would have talked him out of it.
"He had such a great year. That would be really hard to top. I wish him all the luck in the future and I bet he has a pretty good NFL career."
Bruggeman said the last sentence with a smile. He believed big things were ahead for Greene.
Greene said that he enrolled for the second semester of classes at Iowa but was unsure if he would attend. School has never been something he's liked a whole lot. That's why he went to prep school and missed a season at Iowa due to poor academics.
That's not a sin. We'd all like to believe that these kids come to college to be a student first. We'd be naïve to think that's always the case. For Shonn, it's not.
Greene worked very hard to get back the Hawkeye program after spending last season at Kirkwood Community College. He returned to play football, plain and simple.
"After (Ferentz and Greene) found out that he wasn't going to be eligible for the 2007 season, we sat down and set out a plan," said Greene, who will turn 24 before the start of next season. "We just got to it. I started going to school (at Kirkwood) right after that and got the job done."
Greene was asked after the game if he felt like he was auditioning for the NFL in the Outback Bowl.
"Kind of, but not really," he said. "I just wanted to get the win for the team."
Give Greene a lot of credit. He handles his stardom with great humility and probably could have announced his decision before the game and drawn attention to himself.
"I didn't want to tell (Ferentz) while we were down here," Greene said about waiting until the postgame to drop the news on his coach. "We were getting ready with bowl prep. I just wanted to keep that out of the way so we could do what we did today."
When Greene was announced as the team MVP during the awards dinner, he brought his entire offensive line up on stage with him. He also has credited the unit in every post-game press conference this season.
"I was kind of embarrassed because we didn't have much to do with it," Bruggeman joked. "He needs to watch some film. It feels great to have a guy like that who says all that stuff about his offensive line.
"I won't take an ounce of credit for it. If you watch those plays, there's not a lot of blocking. He does a lot of it on his own."
The soft-spoken Greene welcomed the smash-mouth approach of the Gamecocks on Thursday. He even laughed about their trash talking, which he ranked as the most he‘s heard this season.
"During the first drive, they were talking a lot," Greene said. "Then after the second drive, they were helping me up. They were talking a lot of trash. You know how those guys do on defense. They like to talk trash when they get one tackle."
Greene feels that running a good 40-meter time during draft preparation will be the key to him moving up the board. He can't remember the last time he ran the 40. He puts little stock in Mel Kiper Jr's assertion that the running back should return to school and work on his receiving skills.
"I really don't pay attention to those type of guys," Greene said. "I don't think any of those guys ever played football."
Greene has played football at a very high level. He followed the path the system has set up for going from high school to the pros. He attended college, prepared for his career, and put himself in position to make a lot of money.
He's ready to go. He needs to go. It's time. Wish him well.