Now that is something you don't hear every day, much less two-a-day, in training camp. The first weeks of August are meant to grind a guy down, not lift his spirits. Besides, Green has been through this drill five times already. If any Bulldog had cause to be sick of pre-seasoning it is the senior tight end.
But of course he makes for a most exceptional case. Just when his college career seemed finished as far as on the field, Green and Mississippi State alike received the exciting summer news that a sixth season of eligibility was granted to the often-injured Dog. So here Green is again, one more and one last time, sweating through the late summer in preparation for a bonus Bulldog fall.
Actually, he's more like brushing-up on things given Green's long experience already in Coach Dan Mullen's program. This sixth time around should be just about routine for the tight end, right? "I already knew what to expect," Green said. "So for me it was all about getting back in shape and understanding the offense from a coaching point." By the way, had the sixth season not been granted, or MSU applied for it in the first place, Green would be earning a paycheck as a strength staffer somewhere. Coaching can wait a few more months now he figures.
Mississippi State can't wait to get Green back into the gameplan. True, he has not been a significant part of it since 2009, the one completely-unscathed season of his erratic tenure here. That was when the then-sophomore, already three years at State and coming off his first and most troublesome bout of health issues, showed what a fast, physical, and smart tight end can do in Mullen's system. He caught 27 balls for over eleven yards-per with three touchdowns, including that well-remember grab in the end zone in a turning-point victory over Ole Miss.
Sky-high hopes for 2010 were grounded by a game-two knee injury. Even while playing all 13 games last season Green wasn't entirely the same old self, with 11 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown. His 17-yard average was a bit inflated by one 50-yard grab. Curiously, Green seems capped at a half-field's length on any reception. He had a 50-yarder in 2008 in week-two before that season ended prematurely with what eventually was found to be a pelvic muscle and joint condition. And in '09 his long grab-and-go was, yep, 50 yards on the nose.
So right there is one statistical ambition for the extra senior season. More directly, Green would focus on supplying the same sort of eligible-receiver option off the line of scrimmage he did so well back in 2009, if that is what the call calls for.
"It depends on what we do. My whole thing is play the role. In 2009, I was healthy then. I'm healthy now." Not just that but in every bit as good a shape as the rest of the varsity who went through spring football. Green didn't, another sort of bonus maybe, not to mention missing a semester under Matt Balis' management. "But I came back June 1 and I hit it hard."
It's hard for Green to say if he really, truly thought he would be wearing a Bulldog uniform one more fall. Hope springs eternal and all that, but the NCAA odds were unpredictable. So he had those alternate plans in place, just in case.
"It never really crossed my mind to not want to come back. But it was a decision that really needed some thinking going toward it. With all the injuries over the years I had to really just sit down and think about going back through the same thing, as far as if I get injured again how do I take it? Or as far as just pushing forward and doing it all over again."
Those who've gotten to know Green weren't at all surprised he did choose to push forward. Least of all teammates who noticed him watching some spring practices and the spring game. There was something about getting back on Scott Field, even out of uniform—which of course he'd gotten too used to as a player during all the rehabs—with a crowd cheering and clock running and videoboard burning. Besides, Green said, old teammates deserved his applause.
"For me it was just like I wanted to let them know I still support them either way it went." Now Green can support them in a much more tangible way, helping with the blocking and running routes and catching balls. Forget that spring layoff, he's ready to roll right now in preseason and real season.
"I've been playing this game a long time so I knew what to expect. So for me it's just repetition, learning the new offense, what we've got to install, and just trying to be an influence."
Mississippi State caught an even bigger break with Green's go-ahead than thought. About the same time his good news was getting around came bad news, that sophomore and starting tight end Malcolm Johnson had torn a chest muscle in a riding accident. Johnson is out for a still-uncertain period of recovery and will have lots of rust when he does return, maybe enough to cost the campaign. Green certainly hopes not, that Johnson will make it back mid-season.
Still the games are coming as scheduled and the offense needs tight ends. Green's experience—he has played in 29 out of a possible 50 games from 2008-11, not counting his own '07 redshirt year—is invaluable already just in helping youngsters like soph Brandon Hill and redshirt Rufus Warren develop. Green, a running back in high school, appreciates the transition Johnson and Hill have made as recruited wideouts now playing nearer the interior.
He's taken Hill under the proverbial wing, among others. "The thing about Brandon, you can get onto him, he never gives up. That's the key thing, he takes coaching as far as understanding his mistakes. At times I might snatch him up and hey, Brandon, you did something wrong. He's got a beautiful attitude, he soaks and absorbs as much as he can."
"Rufus could be a big target. With him it's just all about learning the speed of the game. He's smart, the thing about him he's just got to learn at a fast pace. Other than that he could be a big target for us."
Not that Green, who has fooled more than one fan into asking if he played offensive line, is a little guy. The only small-time aspect to Green is coming from Kemper County and an AA high school. He is yet another Bulldog hailing from a small town, rural or just plain obscure address. Mullen has proudly built his program on such guys, even those inherited like Green.
And by virtue of the extra season Green can join younger peers in winning four consecutive Egg Bowls. For that matter, he could go to four games, unheard-of among Bulldogs, although he did not play in the 2007 Liberty.
"All we think about is executing at this point in time. Whether it be practice or game, we take every practice serious. As for me, what can I do to help the team. You hear that stuff but you really can't let that get an edge on you."
Just the opposite. Given this extra opportunity Green has an edge of his own for this coming Mississippi State season. Without a single second-thought about staying and playing, he adds.
"I'm a Mississippi State Bulldog forever."