Sam Webb: Where are you now weight wise?
Derrick Green: “I weighed in at 223, so I’m trying to stay under 225. I don’t want to get any higher than that. If I could stay between 220 and 225 I’m good right there.”
Sam Webb: You've still got that burst, that speed that we saw last time?
Derrick Green: “It is there, no doubt about it.”
Sam Webb: What was the toughest adjustment for you last year stepping into Michigan?
Derrick Green: “I think the toughest adjustment for me was just making sure I came in physically prepared and mentally prepared as far as being in condition and learning the scheme of the new offense and blocking and stuff like that. A lot of that stuff, I never did in high school or whatever. I think that probably is the biggest thing for me, to just get accustomed with everything.”
Sam Webb: Talking to Justice and talking to DeVeon earlier, they all said the pass protections were extremely tough to pick up. They both said they felt like it has been simplified with Nuss. Do you feel like that’s the case too?
Derrick Green: “Definitely, no question about it. Coach Nuss definitely knows his stuff and I just feel like with his offense, just everything is simple, straightforward. I think that is going to make it much easier for all the backs to be able to pick up the blocking scheme and learn it as well. Coach Jackson, he is a great coach. He is going to teach us what we need to learn and be able to do the pass protection. The offense right now is just straightforward so there is no way you can really mess that up.”
Sam Webb: I’ve been covering you for a while now. Throughout high school, you were a great player, but you had some adversity getting to that point… getting your conditioning right. Last year seems like it was a lot of adversity for you as well, getting injured early, in and out of the lineup. How did you deal with that?
Derrick Green: “Definitely first and foremost was just keeping God first. I knew with him anything was possible. Definitely, you know, just blocking out all the media and just staying real close to my family and just going back to that grind that I was on to get where I was at as far as becoming that number one back. I mean, I didn’t really let it dawn on me, I just knew what I had to do to get back where I was at and that’s what I did.”
Sam Webb: One of the things that was immediately evident in the spring was your weight. You looked like just back when you were in Richmond. That two-month period from the end of the season, it seemed like something switched as far as getting your body right. What changed?
Derrick Green: “Basically everything. I just came in with a new mind-set and my grind was just ten times harder. I went home and I was working out twice a day, watching what I was eating. I cut out all juices, took a lot of water, I got back to that grind but I went ten times harder. I knew I had to change some things coming back in for this next season and spring ball. That is definitely what I did. I felt great.”
Sam Webb: One of the things that, talking to the coaches, I talked to Coach J, I talked to Coach Nuss. They said, wow, Derrick has really stepped it up. I was at that practice the Thursday before the spring game and it looked like you were limping around a bit. I remember talking to them after the spring game the following Saturday. DeVeon was out there first and then we saw Justice. We saw you and we said, ‘what’s up with Derrick? He was playing well. ' They said, ‘here’s the thing, Derrick was out there. He was banged up and he was out there. That showed us a lot that he was still out there despite being hobbled somewhat.’ Was that another switch you turned on in your head where you’re like, ‘man even if I’m injured I’m going to be out here playing?’
Derrick Green: “Definitely. Coach Jackson said he wanted all the backs to be at all those practices. I knew even with the banged up knee or bruised knee, I was going to have to fight through it. Coach Wellman says is all about mental toughness and fighting through the pain and stuff like that. I knew that was what I had to do. It definitely showed I was a tough guy. I’m going to get through a little injury and pain.”
Sam Webb: Clearly though this is a time of change and growth for you guys as an offensive unit because you’re kind of starting over with a new offense. We talked about the blocking scheme being different. Are there any other differences you notice going from Coach Borges’ offense to coach Nussmeier’s offense?
Derrick Green: “For me I think the biggest difference from Coach Borges’ offense, I feel like I was doing a lot of side to side running and definitely with Coach Nussmeier, it’s all downhill. That’s me all the way, that’s what I like, that’s what I’m about. So I think for me that was what I felt was like the biggest change and just like I said, with Coach Nussmeier, he’s just straightforward.”
Sam Webb: Take me inside your head a little bit. Every guy has different things that push him, that motivate him, different things that maybe he fears. Is there anything you fear? What pushes you? What motivates you?
Derrick Green: “I think what I fear is just failure. I know there’s a lot on my shoulders right now and I think failure is probably the biggest thing for me. I can’t fail. I think what motivates me is definitely my family, just being able to make sure I make it to help my little brother and being able to retire my mom. She’s been grinding her life for me so it’s time for me to step up and make some changes and better her life and my little brother’s life. I think that is definitely what motivates me.”
Sam Webb: You’re a coach and you’re coaching Derrick Green. How do you get the most out of him? What do you do to make sure that you get every ounce of talent out of this guy on the football field. Do you ride him or do you encourage him? Do you chastise him or do you praise him? How do you get the most out of him?
Derrick Green: “That’s a tough question. For me, I know what I’ve got to do. You don’t really have to stay on me or be in my ear or whatever. Every time I step on the field I know what I’m stepping on the field for and that’s to end up bettering my family. I wouldn’t say you have to stay on his back or be in his ear all time, because, like I said, I know what I’ve got to do.”
Sam Webb: Does it hurt my attempts to get the most out of him if I say, ‘Damn Derrick, get it together! Or does it help me more if I say, ‘wow Derrick, that was great?’ Every coach has a button he can push to get the next level out of a kid. I’m coaching you, what’s that button? Are you a guys who responds better to praise?
Derrick Green: “I think I definitely respond better to pressure... definitely. If it’s on my back and it’s something that I’ve got to do, I think that is when I really turn it on. Like I said, I don’t need somebody in my ear, but at the same time, if I’m doing something wrong, I want to be corrected because I’m going to correct it the next time. I think definitely pressure will make me go 110.”
Sam Webb: One of the other things that Coach Hoke said was, 'man, I really feel like this team really really likes one another.' It’s not like you all hated each other last year, he wasn’t saying that. He said, I feel like this group really likes each other, like that part of the team has improved. Do you sense that you guys are closer again? I’m not saying that you weren’t close before? But do you sense that you all are closer now?
Derrick Green: “Definitely, just with us being around each other a lot more and just having that communication part about it is real big. I definitely feel a lot more love this year than we did last year.”
Sam Webb: Is that important?
Derrick Green: “I definitely would say so. You’ve got to have that love for each other and be able to step on that field and probably either block for the man next beside you are do whatever when on the field. I think that’s a real big part of it.”