Vandy commit T.J. Greenstone dominates

SUWANEE, Ga.-- Midway through the fourth quarter last Friday Collins Hill High School led South Forsyth 28-3, but South Forsyth was driving. Earlier the Eagles' defensive coordinator had removed senior all-everything defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone from the game for a breather, but now decided he didn't care to see the score go to 28-10.

In went Greenstone for a key third-down play. Result?

Instant sack. End of threat.

"Tackle by T.J. GREEEEEEN-STOOOONE," thundered the public address system announcer-- who quickly added, "who's headed to Vanderbilt next year."

That's pretty much the way it's been all season for Nashville-bound Greenstone and the Collins Hill Eagles. Any time head coach Larry Sherrill has needed a big defensive play he's called on Greenstone, who uses his big frame and uncanny quickness to toy with opposing linemen and terrorize quarterbacks.

Sherrill has built his defense-- and more recently his offense-- around Greenstone, and it has paid dividends. Collins Hill's stout defense is holding opponents to a meager 9.5 points per game. Last Friday the Eagles (7-3) clinched a playoff berth against Roswell and a third-place region finish with the 28-3 win.

"Vanderbilt fans ought to be very excited [about getting Greenstone]," Sherrill said after the game. "He's a guy that will make things happen for them."

The sack was one of three on the night for the disruptive Greenstone, who spent a good portion of the night in the South Forsyth backfield. The Collins Hill defense never let the visiting War Eagles near the goal line (the 3 points came on a long field goal that hit the crossbar before bouncing over).

On offense, the 6-3, 255-pound Greenstone lines up at right guard next to another college prospect, 6-4, 300-pound T.J. Hurless. Running behind that tandem, running back Craig Jackson has racked up the region's top rushing stats.

"He's a remarkable young man, and a remarkable athlete," Sherrill said of Greenstone. "His motor never stops. He plays hard in practice every down, and he plays hard in the game every down.

"[South Forsyth] was moving the ball a little bit at the end of the game. We didn't want it to get to be a 28-10 ball game, so Coach inserted him again for one play. What does he do? He makes a 7-yard sack.

"He has overcome so much this season. People double team or triple-team him. They dream up creative ways to hold him. He's got a bum elbow, bum thumbs. His knees swell up.

"He's just a warrior. He keeps playing down after down."

5A schools like Collins Hill have more than enough players to supply a two-platoon system. Greenstone makes his biggest impact on defense, but Sherrill still feels it would have been a big mistake not to use him this year as a two-way player.

"We feel like we've gotten a lot better on offense by playing him both ways," Sherrill said. "Opposing coaches have come up and told me he might be the best offensive lineman in the region."

Obviously in tiptop condition, the mobile big man feels it's his extra conditioning that has allowed him to play the requisite 80 to 90 plays each week.

"It was rough at first," said Greenstone of playing both ways. "I had to definitely accept the fact that in order to win, you've got to have the right people in there. I did some extra conditioning to get my body in shape for it. I've learned to like both sides of the ball equally."

The conditioning should help prepare him for the more rigorous regimen he will face in college. In late July Greenstone told the Vanderbilt coaching staff he would accept their scholarship offer, and he hasn't looked back.

"Coach [Rick] Logo, the defensive line coach, is a great man. He knows a lot. I feel he can really mold me into a better player. He was the biggest reason for me going there.

"I'm going to Vanderbilt all the way. I plan to go to summer school next summer to get a jump on things. The academics are great too. It's a heck of a college."

It's been an emotional year for Greenstone, who lost his best friend and teammate to cancer earlier in the season. Jarrett Boston, who played quarterback for the Eagles, was honored on senior night last Friday by having his jerseys retired for football, basketball and baseball.

Greenstone said the memory of Boston has inspired the team through a brutal regular-season schedule.

"We've been playing for him, giving our all," said Greenstone. "We got together as a team. We had some injuries, but people stepped up in key places, and we got it done the way we wanted."

Collins Hill might be a team to watch out for in the upcoming playoffs. The Eagles' 7-3 record is deceptive-- their three losses came to the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 teams in the state. Two weeks ago Collins Hill gave top-ranked Norcross an epic battle before falling, 39-37. This year the Eagles' path to a state title will begin on the road.

"With the defense playing solid and the offense putting points up, I think we could easily... OK, maybe not easily, it's going to be rough, but... we could go all the way," says Greenstone, with a smile.

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