Green Preparing For Next Chapter
Friday, March 26, 2010
Having recently completed his 12th season in the NFL, running back Ahman Green says he approaches his football career one year at a time. While he is hopeful that he will be back on the field once again next season, Green is taking steps to get ready for his next career.
Since mid-February, Green has been serving a teaching internship at De Pere High School, primarily working with at-risk and special-needs students. Green said the original plan was for him to intern at the school for about a month, but since he is an unrestricted free agent and working out on his own, he now expects to be at De Pere for the remainder of the school year.
"I have always been driven to help kids in any way, through my foundation, through when I was playing and stuff like that," Green said. "Being a teacher is an easy way to help kids, teaching them, talking to them, counseling them, doing whatever, because high-school age is a critical age in life."
Green has already found that the key to getting the students' attention is to make a personal connection with them, something that was made easier because of his notoriety in the area.
"It's a lot easier," Green said. "Just like if I was a kid and I had Walter Payton as my math teacher or something, I would have been paying attention and hanging on every word. That's kind of how these kids are when I start talking."
Green admitted that his presence at the school caused a bit of a commotion early on, but he's blending in now with the rest of the staff.
"We got over the 'awe effect' about three weeks ago," Green said. "The first day was, 'Oh my God, Ahman Green is walking around the school.' There weren't a whole lot of autograph seekers. Most of the kids have got cell phones, so it was taking pictures with everybody, which was fun.
"I told Ms. (Annette) Brace, the principal, that it would probably be a two-day thing where the kids would have their moment and then they got over it. After that I was either just 'AG' or Mr. Green. I had to tell everybody I am Mr. Green now because I am a teacher."
When Green is at the school, he typically spends his mornings helping out in classes with at-risk kids, and works with at-risk/special-needs students in the afternoon. A geography major in college at Nebraska, Green has an interest in teaching that subject at the high-school level, and has sat in on a freshman geography class as well as an advanced-placement history class at De Pere.
If Green doesn't play football in the fall, he plans to continue working toward his teaching certificate as well as a master's degree, with an eventual goal of becoming an athletic director or assistant principal.
Green's contact with students at De Pere isn't limited to the classroom, which is evident as he walks the halls of the school between classes. Green greeted several of the students by name, having interacted with them in class or in the commons during lunch time.
With many of the kids he talks to, Green emphasizes the importance of setting goals and laying the groundwork for them early in life.
"I ask them, 'What is something, if all bets were off, that you could do before anything else as an adult and make a living, what would you do?' Green said. "I've asked that question to a group of kids a few times and their eyes just lit up. I'm like, 'Just think about it,' and they are like, 'Oh yeah, I've got something.' Well, if you want to do that, you've got to make sure you are doing something now as a freshman in high school to get to that point.
"Some careers don't necessarily need college, but you definitely have to have that high school diploma. If you mess up now, if you are not doing what you need to now to get to that big dream later on, it's going to be tough."
Since Green entered the draft following his junior season, he fell a few credits short of getting his degree when he left Nebraska. After being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round in 1998, he continued to work toward his diploma, something he also did when he came to Green Bay in a trade in 2000 before finishing his degree in 2002.
Green played for seven seasons (2000-06) in Green Bay before joining the Houston Texans as a free agent in 2007. During his first stint with the Packers, he posted a franchise-record five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, earning Pro Bowl honors four straight years (2001-04).
After being limited by injuries during his two years (2007-08) in Houston, Green re-signed with the Packers this past October after backup running back DeShawn Wynn was lost for the season due to a knee injury. Green saw limited action behind starter Ryan Grant in eight games, but etched his name in the record books in Week 9 at Tampa Bay as he surpassed Jim Taylor to become the franchise's all-time career rushing leader (currently stands at 8,322 yards).
As a free agent, Green said he will listen to offers from any team, but clearly his preference is to return to Green Bay in 2010.
"My agent and I have talked with (GM) Ted (Thompson) and the guys upstairs," Green said. "It's really something that they are going to look at the draft and go from there.
"In the meantime, I can't wait for that. I've got to look at what I am going to do if that retirement comes sooner than later."
Green did just that by seeking out Rob Davis, a former Packers long snapper and currently the team's director of player development, to express his interest in doing an internship at a local high school. Davis reached out to a friend of his, Dr. Benjamin Villarruel, who also happens to be the superintendent for De Pere schools, and set up a meeting between the two.
"What Ahman is doing is what I encourage all players to do, and that's come over and give some of your time and don't put a price tag on it," Davis said. "Just come over and see if it's something you like to do. Now, he could do this experience for a while and say, 'You know what, I'm probably not a teacher.' But at least he got the opportunity to be in a professional setting to learn that instead of just saying, 'Well, I don't think I'll be a teacher but I don't know if I would have been a great teacher.'
"Most guys come into the league without any work experience, the more work experience you can get in anything, the better. Let's say a guy wants to be a stockbroker; let's send him to a brokerage firm. Now he gets the opportunity to see if that's what he wants to do. I don't want guys to rule out some of their hopes and dreams because they don't have experience, and this is a great way for guys to get experience."
Green said having someone like Davis to help players is vital since he can do the legwork to help get the internship process started, and noted that several current players have been able to line up internships in various fields thanks to the Packers' player development program. The team offers career-assessment programs and Davis brings in counselors to help determine players' strengths and weaknesses with various skills.
"Most players are very proactive toward their careers, whether it's training, getting a scholarship to college, working on their footwork or their throwing and their blocking and their catching and their tackling, but not many guys are proactive toward their post-football careers because they don't know," Davis said. "It's a foreign environment to them, so that's where I think my job is important.
"So many guys use the word 'retirement,' and I try to get away from the word 'retirement' from the NFL. It's graduating, so now you've officially graduated from football, but now you are in the real world with the rest of your college peers. Now it's time to go forward, because in my opinion there are only three guarantees. Those are your signing bonus, at some point you'll probably get hurt, and they are going to ask you to leave at some point. So the more prepared you can be for all of those things, it only helps the player."
Green doesn't know when that "graduation" from the NFL will come, but right now he is enjoying himself in a setting he has always felt at home in.
"I loved school, loved going to school," Green said. "The only time I hated going to school was when I was sick. Outside of that, I would be busting out the front door of my house to get to school because I just loved learning. I still have that feeling today when I go into school, being around the kids."
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