First Rounder Green Now Preaches Faith and Hope
“For me, and for other people you always expect it to be a certain way,” said William Green.
“It” is the National Football League and Green knows all about the NFL. The Cleveland Browns’ first round draft pick in 2002 after his stellar career at Boston College, Green played in the NFL for four seasons.
Green recently addressed the Greater Philadelphia Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast in Newtown. His message was clear: as successful as you may be in football, only a relationship with God can satisfy your deepest needs.
“I would say the guys aren’t as happy and fulfilled as everyone thinks they are,” responded Green when asked what the average fan doesn’t know about the NFL. “They show them on television and they read about them in newspapers but fans don’t realize that players are people just like them. They are searching for something.
“I know what it is like to sit in my locker, look down at my jersey and say ‘This is it? Is this it?’ People don’t realize that players are normal guys who are just searching.”
In many respects, William Green is not a “normal guy.” He has achieved a level of football success that most of us only dream about.
He has also battled personal demons that would make most of us recoil in horror. Green, who still looks like he would average five yards a carry today even though he last played in 2005, is now a full time evangelist running a ministry.
“I am just trying to be obedient,” Green said humbly. “Right now, the Lord just wants me to travel and share my story and my life.”
It’s a fascinating life…a life and a marriage that were spiraling out of control until Green surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and asked God to forgive his sins. Now, Green is taking that message to the streets.
“Our ministry is, my wife and I agreed that we’re going to do whatever it is the Lord puts in front of us and that is what we take care of,” described Green, “whether it is helping someone, helping homeless kids or using a platform to share the Gospel, we just kind of go forward.”
Green’s story begins in Atlantic City. “I was 12 years and I was standing in front of a church. This wasn’t just an ordinary church, this was a church that my great-grandfather built with his own two hands. And I stood in this church in front of this casket. And in this casket lie my father,” Green told the audience.
“I’ll never forget standing over that casket weeping and crying. When the pain got to be too great, my mother gently came to my side and put my arm around me and said ‘Son, don’t you worry. Everything is going to be okay.’ I’ll never forget being 12 years old and thinking ‘Man, if my mother wasn’t here to give me a hug or say that everything was going to be all right, I don’t know what I’d do.’
Green’s father was involved in gangs and drugs. The involvement gave him AIDS, which he passed on to Green’s mother. One year later, Green would have to bury his beloved mother.
“At 13 years old, I was standing in front of that same church and staring at another casket. This time, in that casket, is my mother. This time, I laid there weeping I realized that there was no one there to give me a hug,” he remembered. “I remember looking up and thinking ‘God, if you were real, how could this be happening in my life?’”
Angry and hurt, Green poured all of his energies into football. “When I would come home from school and there was no food in the refrigerator,” Green recalled, “and my little brother and sister would ask what we were going to eat, I always told them ‘Don’t worry. One day I’ll be in the NFL.’ That will take all of the pain away and fix all of our problems.”
It worked for a while. Green was an outstanding player at Holy Spirit High School, yet had generated little attention after his junior year.
“I was frustrated but I had a coach say ‘William, if they don’t know who you are, then you have to let them know who you are.’ I made a highlight tape,” he described, “and put myself on the tape lifting, working out and running. The next thing I know, about a month later, it seemed like I had just about every school in the nation calling.”
Green went to Boston College. A 217 pound running back with track star speed was bound to do damage. As a sophomore, he averaged over six yards per carry and scored 15 touchdowns. As a junior, he was a consensus All-American who led the Big East in rushing. He was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 16trh pick of the 2002 Draft after his junior year.
His future looked bright and it never looked brighter than during his rookie year. In the 2002 regular season finale, the Browns hosted Michael Vick’s Atlanta Falcons in a win or go home game for both teams. Cleveland had the ball at their own 36, clinging to a one point lead with just 4:00 left.
Green, who had already rushed for 100 yards that day, picks up the story: “I take my zone read, got the football, juked one defender, juked the next guy and as I start downfield, one defensive lineman reaches up and gets the back of my shoe. It was sort of like slow motion but I reached down, put my hand down and when I look up to my surprise, all I could see in front of me was 65 yards of green until the end zone. I started to run as fast as I possibly could and all of the fans are screaming ‘Run William, Run!’ The defenders were so close to me that I could hear their footsteps behind me and feel them breathing on me. I got to the 50 yard line, that 4.3 40 kicks in and 40, 30, 20, 10 touchdown! The Browns were in the playoffs for the first time in a very long time.
“But what I remembered about that day and how I felt was I was no longer running from my opponents that day and I started running from myself. When I came off the field, and took my helmet and my shoulder pads off, I remember sitting in that locker room. Everybody is happy- and all I could do is think to myself: ‘Man, what in the world am I going to do now? My whole life, I told myself, as long as I had this jersey on, that would be the thing to answer my problems.’ Certainly this would be the thing to take the pain away. Now I am here, and I do not know what to do next.”
Green’s life began to spiral out of control as he tried to numb the pain: Drugs and Alcohol. Suspensions and Fights. Even a DUI and a stabbing as more and more people began to whisper about the career that Green was throwing away.
“The Bible gives so many examples of different men who put their trust and hope in man and the things in this world, and guess what? It lets them down every single time. I became one of those people. My life was a complete mess,” admitted Green. “I was trying to numb the pain. I was mad at God and I had given up on God.”
One night in his second year in the NFL, after a long night of partying, Green stumbled home. It was there his wife quietly asked him if he had ever God a chance. Green realized that he truly hadn’t.
“I finally realized what it was like to truly repent of my sins and just truly believe in Him,” Green said. “To ask Jesus Christ into my heart as Lord not because of what he can give me, or make me score touchdowns but if I don’t have you in my life right now, all of the pain and things I am going through will never, ever be restored.”
A changed man, Green saved his marriage and extended his career for another 2 ½ seasons. “But here is what I want to thank God for,” Green exclaimed, “the people He puts in our life to get us back on the right path.”
Few of us will ever experience the extreme highs and lows that Green has. He has taken a circuitous path, but it’s the right path as he now dedicates his life to bringing his extraordinary story and messages of hope and faith to Delaware Valley youth.
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