Pack's Persistence Led to Greene's Signature

Irmo (SC) tailback Mustafa Greene remembers his first high school play like it was yesterday.

Irmo (SC) tailback Mustafa Greene remembers his first high school play like it was yesterday. As a freshman he had earned the starting spot at kick returner and was waiting for the opening kickoff.

"I was real nervous," said Greene. "We had an outstanding team that year with a lot of seniors that wanted to win.

"I was back there waiting for the first kickoff, and on my first varsity play I ran it back 96 yards for a touchdown."

What stood out most to Greene about the kickoff return?

"I think I was so nervous before the game that I forgot my belt," he said, laughing. "I was running pretty fast and my pants started coming down. I had to hold my pants up while I was running past the kicker."

From the very beginning, the coaches at Irmo High School knew they had a special talent in Greene. He completed his career with 6,079 rushing yards and over 50 touchdowns to rank as the top back ever out of Irmo.

"I've been coaching running backs for 20 years and Mustafa is definitely the best that I've ever coached," said Irmo tailbacks coach David Pitts. "He has great vision and excellent reaction time. He makes a cut and he's already moving downfield on the next cut. He has a lot of God-given talent and ability... things you can't coach.

"He is also a very physical runner. He runs really hard and when he is about to get tackled he gets his shoulders and pads low... you're going to feel it and pay the price when you tackle him."

"I feel like what I do best is make people miss and run through them," said Greene. "One of the things I worked on this year was my speed. I want to be able to leave everybody behind me when I break free out of the backfield."

Despite the accolades, some of the school's in the region never seriously pursued Greene. While the in-state programs extended early offers, they instead elected to focus on Duncan (SC) Byrnes five-star back Marcus Lattimore. A lot of schools believed that focusing on Greene would cause Lattimore to look elsewhere.

"I played with Marcus at the Shrine Bowl and he's an outstanding back," said Greene. "He's a good guy too.

"I do think a lot of teams didn't really come after me because of Marcus also being in the state, but I'm not mad about any of that. I'm just going to show them what they missed out on when I get to NC State."

One program that heavily pursued Greene throughout the recruiting process was NC State. While some teams were evaluating him and staying in contact in the spring, Wolfpack assistant Jim Bridge was there letting Greene and the Irmo coaches know that he was a top priority for NC State.

"That was big to me," said Greene. "Coach Bridge was always saying how much they wanted me to come there, and I have a lot of respect for them because they recruited me like that. A lot of schools kind of backed out or recruited me but not really recruit me, but coach Bridge and NC State let me know that I was their guy."

Another school that made Greene a major target was Rutgers. With tailbacks Brian Leonard and Ray Rice in the NFL, Rutgers appealed to Greene, who is originally from New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights led early in his recruitment and made an impression on his official visit in December.

"I had a great visit to Rutgers," he said. "They let me know how important of a recruit I was for them, and I had a lot of fun being back up there.

"That was my first visit though, and I was always going to take my trip to NC State so I could compare the schools."

Greene took his official visit to NC State in mid-January.

"I had a great time at NC State," he said. "My host was Curtis Underwood, and he's from New York so we had a lot in common. I was able to go to one of their basketball games but also spend a lot of time with the players.

"I also liked coach O'Brien and all the coaches. Coach Swepson has a lot of experience and we sat down to look at all of their offensive plays... I wanted to see how I would fit in. We also talked about how they had a lot of good blockers like Robert Crisp coming in."

With scholarship offers on the table from NC State, Rutgers, Georgia, Alabama, and Syracuse among others, Greene narrowed his list to NC State and Rutgers before reaching his final decision.

"It was a tough decision, but when I listed my pros and cons NC State had more pros," said Greene at the time of his commitment. "There were a lot of things I liked about NC State. I like the playing time situation at my position, and I like the players on the team.

"I also like Raleigh and I think NC State will be a great place to go to college. Another thing is I like that they play on grass while Rutgers has turf."

He informed the Wolfpack coaches of his decision a week before Signing Day, but the Rutgers coaches were slated to visit the Friday before the dead period.

"When I committed to NC State I told Rutgers that they didn't need to come and visit me," said Greene. "They still came down though. The thing is I never met up with them because I didn't want to speak with them. I was thinking that if I met with them they would try and pull the guilt card on me so I wouldn't meet with them."

A few days later he made his commitment official on Signing Day during a press conference at his high school.

"My two coaches helped me throughout my recruitment," said Greene. "They gave me hints... I knew they wanted me to go to NC State so I could play close to home and they could come watch my games, but there was never any pressure. They never told me that's where they wanted me to go, but I had the feeling it was.

"My family was fine with my decision too. My mom was real happy. She wanted me to go to college on a scholarship so I could get a degree."

With NC State losing two tailbacks to graduation Greene believes he has a chance to compete for playing time as a true freshman.

"That's what the NC State coaches told me," he said. "They told me if I compete and show that I'm ready then I will play. They said if I can come in and read the coverages I'll get to play."

"You look at the running back situation and in his mind he probably think he has a great chance [to play as a true freshaman]," NC State head coach Tom O'Brien said of Greene on Signing Day. "That's why he's coming. As you look at it, there's not a lot of carries or yards by the three guys that are there.

"As with all freshmen, who knows who will play or is going to be able to play? It's been explained to him, the faster he learns the offense, and basically for a running back he's going to have to learn some pass protection and he can't whiff on that. It's still going to come down to him having to protect the quarterback too."

Greene indicated that he is on track to qualify academically with a 2.9 GPA.

"I'm going to be good to go with my grades."

Scouting Report: "A one cut downhill runner with great acceleration towards the line of scrimmage and gets behind his pads well to create extra yardage after contact.

"Vision allows him ability to find a cutback lane, though he is not a wiggler trying to always find ways to get to daylight but rather wants to run North and South. Has the frame to add lower body size to become a power back, though frequently injured in the past and durability is a concern." -- Scout.com

Sr. Highlights: RB #23 -- Video 1 --

Sr. Highlights: RB #23 -- Video 2 --


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