It is all running smoothly
Green has his game and life in order Friday, October 17, 2003
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Green has his game and life in order

By LORI NICKEL
lnickel@journalsentinel.com

Last Updated: Oct. 16, 2003

Green Bay - Running back Ahman Green is the second-leading rusher in the National Football League, with 699 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Off to the best season in his six-year career, he already holds a place among the all-time best Green Bay Packers rushers at age 26.

But there's more than football that defines the man. Green always pictured himself one day being a husband and a father, with a wife to confide in and the smiles of children to melt away a bad day. Some guys hold on to bachelor life as long as possible. But the no-nonsense Green had his first daughter when he was 20 years old and was married by age 23.

A troubled marriage ruined the picture. Domestic disputes marred the scene in 2002, a year in which Green suffered several injuries.

This season, the 6-foot, 217-pound back is renewed. With a clean bill of health, his divorce now final, he enjoys visitation with his daughters, now 6 years and 18 months old, during home game weekends. Green has plans to marry Heather Walters, whom he met during his days playing in Seattle, next Valentine's Day in Las Vegas.

Maybe it's just coincidence that Green is playing so well now, but for a guy like Green, who says he loves children and is seriously considering teaching junior or high school after his playing days are over, probably not.

"He's having a great season," running backs coach Sylvester Croom said. "I mean, not good. A great season."

Looking back now, it's amazing how well Green held together on the field despite his marital conflicts.

In 1999, while playing in his second of two seasons with the Seahawks, Green was planning to marry his fiancee of two years, Shalynn Vance, whom he met in high school. On that day in October, the two got into an argument and, according to the Omaha World-Herald, Green left the couple's apartment. Vance tried to lock the door behind him, but Green re-opened it, and it hit her.

Injuries, dropped charges
The door chipped a tooth and bruised and bloodied her lips. They called off the wedding scheduled for later that day and Green spent a night in jail, charged with fourth-degree domestic assault.

Charges were dropped, the couple reconciled and married in June 10, 2000, just before Green's first season in Green Bay.

In March 2002, a month before the couple's second child was born, they were cited by police for disturbing the peace. In May, she alleged abuse by Green, and a judge in Douglas County in Omaha, Neb., issued a protection order that required Green to stay away from Shalynn's Omaha address and the address for the children's day care. Shalynn filed for divorce soon after.

"I had a lot of stuff going on," Green said. "Outside of football, I had to juggle a lot of things. And I was hurt. It was frustrating not being 100% sometimes."

Through this, Green was putting together his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season in Green Bay. His 1,240 yards rushing and 393 yards receiving in 14 games veiled a strained thigh, a knee injury and a concussion. His teammates knew Green was not himself, even though he was chosen for his second Pro Bowl.

Improved strength
"This time last year, he could squat about 225 pounds. Now, he's 325, 350," Croom said. "He's having more explosive runs this year than he did last year because he can outrun people. Last year he couldn't. The last four or five ball games, he practiced and played when most people probably wouldn't have."

Now, Croom notices, Green's patience, instincts, changes in direction, pass protection and receiving - he has 167 yards - are right on. He is also explosive on the run.

"To me, that puts him at another level," Croom said. "When you can power a guy, and you can come back and the guy gets ready to drop his head and take his lick, that makes him special."

Green said he needed time to deal with the divorce, which was finalized earlier this year, and to rest, and finally got it in the off-season.

"That's all I needed was some time to get through it and to finally end it and just try to lead a normal life," Green said.

Last year he spent a couple of thousand dollars on silver rings with his trademark Batman emblem on top, and gave them to the offensive line, fullbacks, tight ends and receivers who blocked for him.

Chasing Taylor
Records don't mean a thing to him now, he says, nor the possibility that he could, by age 29 or 30, conceivably break Jim Taylor's all-time Packers rushing record.

"That will all mean a lot some day, but in terms of me playing right now, I have to worry about what I am doing on the football field," Green said. "When you focus on that stuff now, you won't get far."

Since leaving Nebraska early for the pros as an academic All-Big 12 honorable mention selection, he has been going back to school part time and earned his degree in geography from Nebraska in May.

Another Packer heavily involved in charity work, Green focuses mostly on children's causes. He made his off-season home in DePere. An asthmatic, he continues public service announcements for anti-smoking efforts.

Green says for the sake of his two daughters, he and Shalynn are civil. He's excited that little Myahni can speak some words and talk to him on the phone. At least Ahmani, his eldest, can look for him on TV. When they come to town, they get to do whatever they want with their dad, ride bikes, play video games, watch movies and color crayons.

"I wish they were here every day. They've been up here for games, so she (Myahni) knows who I am," Green said. "I grew up with my mom and dad, knowing what a family should be like and feel like. As a kid, that's what I wanted. I wanted to be a dad, I wanted to be a husband, to have a support system. I wanted people that loved me, to help me through anything I needed help with."

Green says he has that now in his new relationship, in a happier personal life.


From the Oct. 17, 2003 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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