by Chuck Pool (cpool@edu) -
Rice (1-6/1-2) vs. LA Tech (3-4/1-2)
After four years of standout work in the classroom and on special teams, DJ Green has made the most of his opportunity as a starter in 2017.
Rice Falls at Louisiana Tech, 61-16
Louisiana Tech gained 735 yards of total offense, as Rice fell to the Bulldogs, 61-16, Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.
During the week when he is not deep in game preparation, Green continues to advance his studies, pursing a Masters in Accounting. On Saturdays, he has begun to pile up numbers that require an accountant's skill to compile.
Playing next to Conference USA's leading tackler in 2016 and 2017 preseason defensive player of the year (Emmanuel Ellerbee), Green has been become a trusted bookend, compiling 39 tackles through the first seven games.
Be it the classroom or the film room, preparation has been key for Green's successes at Rice.
"The neatest part is the preparation," Green said. "The game itself, no matter if you are a special teams guy, offensive player or defensive player, you determine what your role is going to be throughout the week with how you prepare".
As a redshirt and then for three years as a standout on special teams, Green was always determined to contribute in any way possible.
"The first year (2013) I spent as a redshirt on the scout team. On the day of the games, I got to see the guy who I had been portraying in practice and see how he played against our offense," Green recalled. "Thankfully, a lot of times, our offense was playing well against him and we won 10 games. It was very rewarding to think I helped them prepare."
Over the next two years, he was a special team standout, leading the team with six special teams tackles in 2015, but in 2016, he was hampered by a nagging injury that held him out of action as his teammates struggled to a 1-8 start.
"The preparation was still there (last year), but in a different way," Green noted. "It was more about health and staying mentally sharp to help the team. I knew what I was doing and if I needed to, I could help coach a guy."
He made an immediate impact when he was able to return to the field, helping spark Rice's rally from an early 21-0 deficit at Charlotte by forcing a fumble on a punt early in the third quarter to set up a Tyler Stehling touchdown and close the margin to 21-16.
"It wasn't anything spectacular, it was just that I was able to come back and have an impact and help us win a game that we easily could have lost," Green said.
As he wrapped up his undergraduate degree last spring, a new educational experience was also underway and Green and his fellow defenders were undergoing a crash course in the 3-4 defensive scheme brought to South Main by new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart.
"One thing we were told when we were introduced to this defense was that it was a system defense. Coach Stewart doesn't ask us to be supermen, but to be a man. As long as you do the role, if you take good technique, have a good effort, good footwork you know the calls, the alignments, stance, footwork and responsibilities, you can play in this defense. Thankfully that has helped to assure us that you don't have to be a 5-star player or hall of famer to run this defense."
Green's quick ascension during the spring as the starter next to Ellerbee was not so much a case of a senior realizing this was his last hurrah, but of Green filling a need.
"I've had to prepare a lot more. I don't think it was because I was a senior and could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It's more that I had a role that required me to do more and if I don't do that, I'm going to let down my teammates and myself," he stated.
Green credits his signature combination of drive and determination to his parents, David and Karen Green.
"I like to describe them as traits of a dog. My dad would be the bite. He would be the one who walks the walk. He taught me to do work in silence with the virtues we all aspire to. My mom is the bark. She taught me that perfection is the expectation. Even though you may be human, you better expect perfection. Even though I have those (academic) medals, I'm sure she was expecting an even higher GPA. It's what was instilled in me. In one way, it makes me never satisfied, but in another, it keeps me hungry," Green stated.
While driven to succeed, he readily admits his success in both the classroom and on the field are the result of collaborations with so many others.
"Rice gave me so many resources," Green said. "I have Julie (Griswold) and Mike (Yeakel), I have the Bixby Center, I have tutors at my disposal, I have coaches who understand this is Rice University, I have a lot of smart people around me. Everything else just fell into place and I just did what I needed to do. "
Each Saturday, he can count on the large men who toil in front of him to set the stage for his efforts.
"The guys up front have done a really good job of taking care of Emmanuel and I, keeping blocks off of us. Unfortunately, we have had some nagging injuries up there, but Coach Okam does a great job of coaching those guys up and it keeps us pretty clean."
That motivation also comes from his fellow linebacker patrolling the interior of the defensive perimeter.
"Emmanuel does a great job of watching film and taking care of his body--having that Game Seven mentality that Coach (Scott) Vestal talks about. I communicate with him daily about how we are going to adjust, our checks and our fits. What you seen on Saturday is a by-product of a lot of work that comes together," Green stated.
While Saturdays are an event for fans and the focal point of a week of preparation, they represent the culmination of a week's work for Green.
"The games are more like recess," Green stated. "Sean Merryman once said `I practice so hard because that's what they pay me for, the games are fun. I'd do that for free'. I like the way he said that.
"They have given me a scholarship for what I do during the week, going to class doing my homework and practicing, but when it comes to game day, I am a Rice Football Player."