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Ahman Green: College 'What-Ifs' Don't Taint Stellar Career

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Describing parts of the “Mount Rushmore” of a certain aspect of sports has become a popular way of describing the cream of the crop. This is not a piece about the Mount Rushmore of Nebraska Football I-Backs, though rest assured, Ahman Green would be on that mountain.

I can’t say Green is the best back in Husker history; I’ve made it clear who I believe that is. That said, he is a great I-Back and perhaps the best of the Husker backs in the NFL.

Green came to Nebraska as part of the recruiting class of 1995. He won the Gatorade Circle of Champions Nebraska Player-of-the-Year award and was also a Parade All-American while at Omaha Central.

If there were ‘five-star’ recruits in 1995, he would have certainly garnered consideration.

His freshman season was an interesting one in that while Green played as the backup to Lawrence Phillips.

He absolutely went off after taking over following LP’s suspension. In the 11 games he played (six starts), Green amassed 1,086 yards, which still stands as Nebraska Football’s freshman rushing record.

He had his best game as a freshman in a 73-14 drubbing of Iowa State, rushing 12 times for 176 yards and three touchdowns. He added two receptions for 22 yards and another touchdown.

In addition to grabbing the record for rushing yards as a frosh, he was named as an All-Conference player and the Big Eight Offensive/Freshman Newcomer of the Year.

It’s interesting to think about Green’s statistical legacy had he not been splitting carries with Phillips among others his freshman year. Imagine knowing that even when playing with so much talent, he he would eventually top the 1,000 yard mark.

“In his prime, totaling an NFL-high 9,036 yards from scrimmage from 2000-’04, arguably no running back was more complete.”

Behind that offensive line and playing with arguably the greatest college quarterback to ever don a helmet and shoulder pads, the possibilities were sky-high.

Sadly, he battled injuries his sophomore year and only played in 10 of the 13 games. Even with limited action, he totaled 917 yards on the ground. His first 200 yard game came in 1996 against Iowa State as he toted the rock 29 times for 214 yards, a career-high.

Again, in a ‘what-if’ scenario for Green’s career at NU, what would have happened to the Husker team in St. Louis had he played in the inaugural Big 12 title game against Texas?

DeAngleo Evans carried the ball 32 times for 130 yards, but one would be hard pressed to argue that Evans was the better back.

In 1997, Green’s last season with the Huskers, proved to be his best statistically. He ran for 100 yards in 12 straight games and was able parlay those fantastic performances into 1,877 yards on the season.

He averaged 6.8 yards per carry while scoring a team-leading 22 touchdowns.

His tenure as the Huskers’ starting I-back ended with 200 yard games in three out of his last four outings. This becomes even more impressive considering he claimed 206 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee in the Orange Bowl after putting up 179 in the Big 12 championship game against Texas A&M.

After his junior year, Green was named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award and was named a second-team All-American by such publications as the Sporting News and the Associated Press.

Had Green stayed for his senior year, he’d likely have been a Heisman frontrunner. However, he decided to forego that opportunity for the NFL where he was drafted in the third round by the Seattle Seahawks.

He only stayed in Seattle two seasons before being traded to Green Bay, where he really found his professional footing.

From 2000-2004, Green rushed for over 1,000 yards each year, including a career high 1,883 in 2003.

According to Tyler Dunne of the Journal-Sentinel, “In his prime, totaling an NFL-high 9,036 yards from scrimmage from 2000-’04, arguably no running back was more complete.”

It is not a stretch to say Green is one of the better all-around backs in NFL history. He has career totals of 9,205 yards on 2,056 carries, while adding 2,883 receiving yards on 378 career receptions.

Just recently, he inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall Of Fame. This well-deserved honor comes after a 12 year career, including eight in Green Bay.

In an interview prior to the enshrinement, Green said spoke with Tyler Dunne of the Journal-Sentinel about how he stayed fresh during games and late in the season:

“It wasn’t during training camp. It wasn’t during September,” Green said. “It was always when I started my off-season training. I was training for that quarter in March, in April, in May, because I knew my team was going to need me in the fourth quarter. Me playing in the first quarter and first half is great and dandy. But come the end of the game, that’s when my team was going to need me.”

While his college career may have had its fair share of ‘what-ifs’, there is no doubt that the mark he’s left as a native Nebraskan in the professional ranks as well as on the college gridiron will never be forgotten.

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