NFL: Fast track taken to Hall of Fame
By Joseph White
DULLES, Va. ó In 1969, after his parents were divorced, 9-year-old Darrell Green moved with his mother from a nice, picturesque Houston community to the projects. He then starting riding a public bus every morning to go back to his old neighborhood and finish out the year at his old school.
iI get off this bus,î Green said, iand this guy had a little shop, maybe a lawnmower shop or something. He would chase me every day. I never told my parents. I just tied down all my stuff, and when I hit the ground out of that bus: Pow!
iI did that maybe for a month until school was out. He had bad intentions. He was chasing a 9-year-old boy.î
So Green was off and running, and he never really stopped. Not when he started attending another elementary school and outran every sixth grader in the 50-yard dash. Not when he got to middle school and outran every boy on the track team, driving crazy the coach who begged and begged but couldnít persuade Green to join the squad.
Not when he got to high school and finally ran track in the 10th grade. And then played football for the first time in the 11th grade, then both sports as a senior, and again at Texas A&I.
Green didnít stop running when the Washington Redskins selected him with the final pick in the first round of the 1983 draft. Or when he touched the ball for the first time in an NFL game: a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown against Atlanta in the preseason. Or when he gained instant celebrity status by chasing down Tony Dorsett on iMonday Night Footballî in his first regular-season game.
Or when he tore cartilage in his ribs during a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown against Chicago in a 1987 playoff game. (Check the replay: The man is carrying the ball in one hand and trying to hold his rib cage in place with the other.) Or when he won the iNFLís Fastest Manî competition four times. Or when he was clocked at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash at age 37. Or when made any of his club-record 54 career interceptions.
Even when he retired in 2002, he stayed on the field for 55 minutes after his final game, greeting fans in a Cal Ripken-like victory lap. At age 42, he was ending his career as the NFLís oldest cornerback ever.
He still didnít stop. There have been business ventures, his Youth Life Foundation for children, honors received such as iDarrell Green Boulevardî that runs near a new golf course in which he is a partner. And, of course, the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 5-foot-8 guy will be there Saturday, inducted in his first year of eligibility.
iThe Hall of Fame is not a goal, itís a byproduct of an effort,î Green said. iThereís no magic to it. Iím not that complicated. As fascinating as the Hall of Fame is to the fans, the kids, itís fascinating to me. Iím like a spectator in the stands: ëYouíre kidding me? This is awesome.í
iMy Hall of Fame honor is better than everybody elseís Hall of Fame honor. Itís way beyond the field.î
On the field, Green played on two Super Bowl championship teams and earned seven trips to the Pro Bowl, the last at age 37. He was a starter until age 40.
Green never tried to shop himself in free agency and became, along with Jackie Slater, one of two players in NFL history to play with one team for 20 seasons.
He was fast, too. Thatís just his personality.
iI met my wife, and within six months we got engaged,î Green said. iIíve just always been a guy who has a quick discernment on something. Even in business. Iíve always been fast. Iím fast in the things that I try to focus on, but I also have a stick-to-it-ness.î