Eager for some Green
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Omaha World Herald


BY ERIN GRACE


WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

How bad do Nebraska kids want to learn football from a pro?

Enough to ride 470 miles from Alliance with an aunt.

Enough to throw hair in a ponytail and forget you're one of the only girls.

Enough to sit with 120 other kids on hot metal bleachers Monday in utter silence while your hero, Ahman Green, speaks.

For the second year in a row, the former Husker-turned-Packer thrilled children as he kicked off a two-day football skills camp.

It drew children, ages 8 to 14, from as close as the neighborhoods near the North High practice field where the camp was held to the Panhandle community of Alliance. One boy rode in from Beatrice. Winnebago Tribe children came by bus. Others hailed from Millard, Papillion, Hanscom Park.

The drills, the advice and the Arby's lunches didn't come cheap. Tickets cost $120 each, although many children came on scholarship. All the proceeds went to Green's foundation, which directs money toward children's causes in Milwaukee, Green Bay, Seattle and Omaha.

On Monday, the children warmed up with drills and practiced defensive and offensive positions.

Guiding them were Green, Central High football players and coaches and at least one Husker, Green's cousin Tierre.

"Your attitude has a lot to do with how you perform," Tierre Green, a Husker cornerback, told them. "Be coachable. Listen to what (coaches) say."

"You want to work hard at all times," added D.J. Jones, a Central High senior named to Sports Illustrated's first All-American high school team. "Any time you want to give up, keep on going."

Their words fell on ready ears.

Eager to please, eager to learn, the pint-sized and the giants alike and more than a few in green Packers jerseys or last year's Ahman Green camp T-shirts hit the ground, ran their hearts out, tried.

"Awesome!" exclaimed 10-year-old Cal Griencewic, red-faced and panting.

"I love football!" gushed Jared Schipper, an 8-year-old with cropped blond hair and glasses who grunted like a tough guy as he dropped into a push-up.

"When I go back to Winnebago," a ponytailed Jordin Marr, age 10, said, "I could teach my brother how to play."

The heat made Monty Shepard's outfit blue jeans, a large T-shirt, a 'do rag and a ballcap look sweltering. But the 13-year-old played cool, even when pulling out his asthma inhaler. After all, he had just made a great catch in front of his peers during a play with Ahman Green.

"I'm tired," he panted, grinning.

Lessons came from the bench as well as the field. During a Q & A with Green, they stared starstruck as he dispensed wisdom and trivia:

Flag football is a good start that's how Ahman got into the sport in Los Angeles at age 6.

Good grades matter Ahman graduated from NU in 2003 with a 3.3 grade-point average.

It's good to be nervous it means you care.

Parents and former Chicago Bears great Walter Payton are great inspirations.

And Batman is the coolest superhero because he creates his own power he works out, lifts weights, eats right.

"He's basically like you and me," Green said. "I want to be the best at what I can do."

Parents on Monday looked as eager as their kids.

Jodi Bies of Papillion, whose 10-year-old son's bedroom is covered in Packers gear, introduced herself to Green.

"I'm Tanner's mom," she told him. "He wouldn't miss you for the world."


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