Former Browns RB Green finds God and now searching for second chance in NFL
Even when you don’t make the connection with William Green these days, you get the message.
“All things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose,” the recorded voice of William’s wife, Asia, says on the couple’s answering service.
The 2002 first-round pick (No. 16 overall) has spent the past two seasons finding his way with God. Now, the question is whether Green will find his way back to the NFL. After two seasons out of the game, Green will be working out Tuesday at Boston College, his alma mater, in hopes of catching the eye of NFL scouts, coaches and executives.
There figures to be a good crowd in attendance at the Chestnut Hill campus. Matt Ryan, the top-rated quarterback in this year’s draft, is scheduled to work out along with the other draft-eligible players from BC. Ryan could go as high as No. 1 overall to Miami … or to another team if the Dolphins decide to trade out of the top slot.
For Green, the question is whether he will get a shot to resume a short-lived career. When the Cleveland Browns took Green in the first round six years ago, then-coach Butch Davis did so despite having a chance to select Clinton Portis, whom he coached at the University of Miami. Davis has forever been second-guessed for that move as Green became a draft bust. Green was released in training camp in 2006, having never reached 1,000 rushing yards in a season and carrying only 20 times in 2005.
Said one NFL scout who handles pro personnel: “He showed almost nothing as a player when he was in Cleveland. I mean, by the end, you couldn’t tell the difference between him and a bunch of guys who weren’t even drafted. Didn’t run hard, didn’t run fast, didn’t do anything that ever made you say he was anything special.”
The most significant news of Green’s career was a four-game suspension he served in 2003 for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Green readily admits to his past marijuana use and says he has continued to be tested regularly even while he has been away from the game. Until players officially retire, they continue to be tested after failing tests earlier in their career.
“What I say is that I’m glad it was only marijuana I was using and not something worse,” Green said. “I quit that and I’ve been clean for many years now.”
Now, Green wants another chance. He has been working out in Phoenix under respected trainer Brett Fischer for the past five months, quietly biding his time and getting in shape.
“I wasn’t prepared to play in the NFL the first time around,” Green said. Both he and his wife say he doesn’t have to play. He invested wisely enough and still has real estate holdings in New Jersey.
“We can live comfortably on what we have, that’s not it,” said Asia, who is raising five children with Green. “William was smart with his money. He’s not desperate to get back in the NFL.”
Instead, Green said he is simply determined. The fact that he has survived this long under Fischer may serve as proof. Fischer tolerates little at his facility and has reportedly dismissed another former first-round pick from his facility that was attempting to make a comeback. Green, claiming to be down to his college playing weight of 215 pounds, has survived only because he has taken the work seriously.
“I feel fast, I feel quick, I feel strong. My body feels phenomenal. Most important, I’m confident again and my head is in a good place,” Green said. “When I was with the Browns, I didn’t know how to be focused on what I was supposed to do … For so long when I was a kid and I was going through so many problems, I just kept thinking, ‘I’ll be in the NFL one day.’
“I thought being in the NFL would make me happy but it didn’t. I got to the NFL and I didn’t make better decisions. I didn’t find the kind of life I really wanted. Instead, I was more focused on going out and partying, not on what I had to do to be successful.”
Green’s story of tragedy and initial triumph were chronicled long ago. Both his parents died of AIDS when he was a teenager. He had his first child with Asia, his girlfriend of nearly six years before they got married in 2004, when he was in college. The reports of marijuana use go back to his college days.
Now, the 28-year-old Green says the days of him “chasing women and acting irresponsible” are gone. Asia Green, 26, said the claims are worth believing. Her own experience with him has proved that in her eyes.
“It was very hard for me to believe, at first,” said Asia, who met Green when they were in high school together in Absecon, N.J. “But over the past two years, he went from a person I couldn’t trust to a person I have allowed to let go and lead our family.”
In 2003, while Green was serving his suspension and before they were married, Asia tried to “scare” him into paying attention by threatening him with a knife. Green was cut in the incident, although both maintain some of the media’s accounts were overstated. Still, the two were apart for six months afterward.
Now, the couple is creating deeper bonds. They celebrated the birth of their fourth child together three weeks ago. Green returned to their home in Cleveland for a few days to help and then returned to Arizona to finish training. On Sunday, he headed to Boston to get acclimated to the field where he’ll work out Tuesday.
Getting to this point required a lot of Asia. Almost five years ago, Green informed her that he was having a child with another woman. This was before the couple married, but nonetheless heartbreaking for Asia.
“It was definitely a shock and then there was just trying to get through it, the frustration and the hurt,” Asia said. “But I prayed about it and found the strength through God to stay with him. Now, we raise her just like she was mine. There’s no difference.”
Still, the ultimate change for Green took longer. In the summer of 2006, he started to get the message Asia had found before him. Listening to tapes of popular and successful televangelist Dr. Creflo Dollar, Green began to understand that if he was going to make a life with Asia work, he was going to have to embrace God. The couple eventually went to Atlanta to see Dollar, who teaches what he calls “prosperity theology.” They sat in the front row for what Asia described as an “inspiring” sermon.
“William was baptized at that time and the Holy Spirit really touched him,” Asia said.
It was a startling change for Green.
“When you think you have arrived at the answer, it sometimes takes awhile to figure out that you don’t have a real answer. That’s the hardest part, when you work your way through and then discover that this, making the NFL, isn’t the answer,” he said. “I’m at peace with myself now. I come home and my kids are waiting for me and they love me. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I didn’t have when I was a kid.”
Green went to training camp later that summer, but his lot in football at that time was cast. When he injured his quadriceps, the Browns had finally lost patience with him.
He said he didn’t think about going back to the NFL at the time because he was focused on his spiritual life and family. Now, he claims to have that in order and is willing to try the league again.
“Hopefully the Lord will help me have another chance. If that happens, I believe I can be a powerful force,” Green said.