By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
Over 20 seasons, 1983-2002, with the Washington Redskins, Darrell Green played in a team-record 295 games. On January 20, the Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback will take the field for his first game as a head coach.
Usually done by former NFL head coaches, Green will be the first former player to lead a team in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, an annual all-star game featuring Draft-eligible players from colleges across the country, which will be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and televised on FS1.
“I’ve been coaching there the last five years as a secondary coach. So, I guess they saw my talent,” Green said with a laugh. “Everybody has been ex-head coaches from the late Denny Green to Herm (Edwards), Mike Martz, and Mike Holmgren. They’ve had a lot of incredibly successful and well-respected coaches. I think it only makes sense to allow a former player to eventually coach it.
“I think I have the credentials to do it. I understand the game and I think that’s the easy part. The bigger part is that we have a real concern and love for these guys. We know exactly what they are after. We know where they come from. And it’s my job to try to position them in this early stage of their second phase journey into becoming a professional football player.
“They’ve already played college, that’s over. This begins the bowl games, the Combine, the pro days at school, meeting with the scouts. I count this an incredible privilege and I’m not taking it lightly. Hopefully, these guys will say, ‘Hey, I got something out of this.’ At the end of the day, we want to give them a chance to go out there and present themselves in front of tons of scouts, G.M.s and executives both by doing it with their cleats on and doing it sitting in a chair.”
With a coaching staff made up of former NFL players that include (wide receiver) Matthew Hatchette, (cornerback) Cris Dishman, (center) Kevin Mawae, (linebacker) LaVar Arrington, (defensive back) Everson Walls, and (running back) Brian Mitchell, Green feels working with the young prospects benefits all.
“I’ve been working with youth to young adults for so long and I can tell you and it’s not a cliché, you always get so much more than you give,” Green said. “I’ll have the privilege to walk away saying that I gave them my best to try to help this young man. Maybe I’ll see him (playing in the NFL) on television next year and see him carrying out some ideologies or maybe even some technique that we were able to impart to them. We’ll take away the pride of having a little time to participate with them. I’ll take away the pride of being the first non-former pro head coach to coach it. I’ll take away the pride of leading my team.
“I was thinking about this question this morning. I thought, wow, a football has never had a press conference. If anything, a football is not really with us. It tries to jump out of your hand. When you fumble it and it flips differently, it’s not even shaped in such a way to always make you happy. But as people, we are, we can overcome, we can work together, we can build together, we can play together, we can practice together, we can accomplish something together. So, football is a people sport. And that qualifies me as a head coach.”
Green also qualifies as a people person. Having an impact on young lives is not new to him. Besides working as an associate athletic director at George Mason University and piloting the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation, he is also linked with a company called Centene and travels the country in partnership with the Pro Football Hall of Fame presenting a program he created called Strong Youth Strong Community
“It focuses on helping 13 to 18 year olds establish foundations around their lives for sound decision making,” Green said. “In a moment where a bully comes up to them or someone says, ‘Hey, hit this joint,’ or ‘Hey, skip school with me,’ or ‘Hey, let’s go steal something from the gymnasium,’ they have a constitution that gives them governance over their behavior.”