Fullback Has Running Back Qualities

Recruited by powerhouses Texas, USC, Oregon State, Washington, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and UCLA, Justin Green had a strong desire to go to Texas but ended up staying home – paving the way for Cedric Benson to blossom.

Staying home meant going to school at San Diego State University for Justin Green. But when the coaches were fired from the Aztecs, Green decided it was time to transfer. They had asked him to drop about 30 pounds and after playing at a junior college for a year, he ended up in Montana – one of the top Division I-AA schools in the country.

"I think I made the best choice at that time," Green said. "The biggest thing was risking injury, kind of going back to junior college and not having a scholarship anymore. The people I talked to, the strength and conditioning coach there, said the biggest thing was if you were going to go or were going to stay: you can't look back at the what-if's. You have to go be comfortable with your decision on everything you do and be happy with it no matter what happens."

In his first year in Montana, Green was voted the Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year. He finished third in the conference in rushing, averaging 88.2 yards per game and is 1,146 rush yards ranked him fourth in Grizzly single-season history. He also tallied 14 touchdowns. He followed that up with 638 yards rushing as a senior but for all his rushing skills, the 250-pound back is being fitted as a fullback on the NFL level.

"Actually, at the beginning of this year I was about 250, but I was kind of a fat 250," said Green. "I'm much more proportionate now, and I feel a lot better. They got me on a good eating schedule out here."

With the move to fullback comes a learning curve. Instead of alluding tackles, Green is taking on would be tacklers to open holes for the runners.

There is some hesitation involved when that becomes your full-time role.

"It's different because I've never had my hand on the ground," Green said of his new position. "I learned in the All-Star game that when I'm picking up the blitz, I'm kind of…everything's coming to you. At the position of fullback, you kind of have to go out and get it. I'm still trying to get that underneath my feet.

"It's kind of weird, putting your hand on the ground, you have to focus on everybody's feet. You can't really put your head up to decide who you have to block. Just the small things you have to do, seeking out guys to hit. I also learned that you don't necessarily have to get a crushing block on a linebacker to make yourself effective. I found myself doing that a little bit at the All-Star game, just trying to kill the guy, and I would either hit him and slip off of him, or run by him. It's more of a position-type thing, just get some movement. Don't let them penetrate into the backfield, past the line of scrimmage."

With acceptance of the position change, Green has looked around at some of the great fullbacks in the league to get a feeling of the player he aspires to be. Lorenzo Neal is a player who tops his list and the system in Pittsburgh fits his style as well.

"I would say the Chargers definitely. Anybody who has a team with a fullback-type guy, it's great to have a running back that can do things not necessarily just off of a great block. Guys like LaDainian Tomlinson. The way he reads his blocks…he's so good at cutting off of what he does. They do have a great fullback there, as well, so that makes the situation hard for me.

"One of the positions I don't know if I would fit in right off the bat is as a fullback for Pittsburgh, where you've got a much more downhill fullback-type who does a lot of blocking and not necessarily getting out into the pass route."

Not on the initial list invited to the Combines, Green thought he might have to wait until his Pro Day to strut his stuff. In January, however, he found out he was indeed invited and the preparations began.

"The Combine is all about numbers and you don't get to do many football things there, but you want to get the best numbers that you possibly can. The other half is finding out how you are as a person. I think it's more a meet you, greet you, and cut you type thing than it is everything's going to be based on what you do at the Combine. I definitely think it's a big part, but football speed and track speed are two different things. I think the more numbers you have in your favor, the better off you are. It gives you a little bit of a say in what you're going to be weighed on."

Green called straight-line forty speed his biggest weakness and ran two forties of 4.84 at the combines. He did, however, show is strength with 23 reps on the bench press.

Given his new position, Green doesn't view that as a deterrent come draft time.

"I'm pretty quick and I can get downfield pretty quick, but again, I'm a fullback and I don't think my speed is necessarily looked upon as having to be the fastest guy," he added.

With a history as a feature back, Green will make a nice addition to an NFL team. He is a project at fullback but could develop into a nice two-way back that can pound it out in short yardage. There is no shortage of teams that could use that kind of player.

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