"I've got great memories of Green Bay," Smith, who as Hawaii's running backs coach mentored third-round draft pick Alex Green, told Packer Report recently. "When I got there for offseason training, I think the winter was mostly over so I didn't have to deal with the cold that everyone talks about. So, maybe I have some better memories than some people do. I had a great time in Green Bay. Some of the people in player personnel when I was there are still there today, so they had contacted me about Alex and I was pretty surprised that they even remembered me."
Running back wasn't a need for a team that could have a crowded backfield with Ryan Grant, James Starks, Brandon Jackson and versatile John Kuhn battling for playing time. But Green's talent was impossible to overlook.
"He's a unique commodity," Packers director of college scouting John Dorsey told Packer Report. "We like bigger backs because of those November and December days. But for a big guy, he has really soft hands and catches the ball really well. He has patience, he has vision, he has power as an inside-the-tackle runner. For a big guy, he has speed. He's an intriguing fit."
Due to poor grades, Green spent his first two seasons at Butte Community College — where Aaron Rodgers' college career got its start. Green was on his way to Liberty, a Football Championship Subdivision school, but the continual prodding of Lametrius Davis, a teammate at Butte who was recruited to play cornerback for Hawaii, earned Green a trip to Honolulu.
"We were pretty fortunate," Smith recalled. "He had some academic situations in junior college, which kept a lot of schools off of him. For us, he had to go to summer school, both sessions, then transfer in right as we were starting training camp. He was a real late addition for us."
Because he joined the team so late, Green was the backup to Leon Wright-Jackson for all 13 games in 2009 — though Green did lead the team in carries. With a year in the system to get a full grasp of the playbook, plus an offseason in which he became more powerful and explosive with an additional 10 or 15 pounds of muscle on his 6-foot frame, Green had a banner senior season. With 1,199 yards, Green became Hawaii's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1992. His 8.1 yards per carry led the nation and his 18 rushing touchdowns tied the school record.
"They're getting a real high-character kid that's extremely hard-working," Smith said. "He was great with our academic people and worked his butt off with them. Every rep was full speed, 100 percent. Never dogged anything, never took days off, never took plays off."
Green's running ability at 220 pounds, along with his 38 catches as a senior and potential to return kickoffs, excite the Packers, even with Grant healthy after topping 1,200 yards in 2008 and 2009 and Starks emerging as a force during the playoffs.
However, if Green can't protect Rodgers, then he won't get on the field.
"That's the same thing here," Smith said. "That won't be a change for him. He's developed into a very good pass blocker. He became more physical, his hips got a lot better, his feet got better. I think he'll be real proficient with Green Bay. We do a lot more in our protection than a lot of teams. He's going to be able to understand what defenses are doing and get through his progressions. I think he'll translate pretty well."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.