- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003

It should come as no surprise that the National Football League’s fastest man would be quick to move on in retirement.

Darrell Green ended his record 20-year career as a cornerback with the Washington Redskins fewer than seven months ago, but it might as well have been seven years ago. Training camp starts on Monday, and Green isn’t feeling that familiar itch to get back on the field.

“The focus of my life isn’t yesterday; it’s tomorrow,” the 43-year-old Green said this week over lunch at Emilio’s in Sterling Va., just a couple of miles from Redskin Park. “My tank is on empty. I don’t feel that need to compete anymore.”

If Green’s tank is empty, his life assuredly is not.

Green was a busy man off the field even during his playing days, managing his Youth Life Foundation and its half-dozen learning centers for underprivileged children and running his marketing firm, Darrell Green Enterprises.

That made his transition to retirement easier than it is for a lot of former players.

“I’ve seen so many players who are lost for the first two or three years after they got out of the game. And a lot of them didn’t have the finances to be able to be lost,” Green said. “Then all of a sudden they look at their bank accounts and realize, ‘I better wake up.’ I started praying several years ago that when I got out of football that whatever was biting these guys wouldn’t bite me.

“I’m not perfect in how to live like this. I’m still getting used to it. … But I’m happy. Unless someone asks me about football, I don’t really think about it.”

That’s because Green is too busy to miss the game.

In addition to the learning centers and the marketing firm, Green has started Trusted Solutions Group, an information-technology company, and Green Team Limousine.

He also is a minor investor in the group seeking to bring a Major League Baseball team to Washington and is the chairman of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation.

And of course, the devoted family man is spending more time with wife Jewell and their children: Jerrell, a rising senior at Flint Hill Prep; Jared, a rising freshman at Bishop O’Connell; and Joi, a rising eighth-grader at Flint Hill.

“When I was playing, there was only so much time to give,” Green said. “Sixty or 70 percent of my time was regimented. People knew there were only so many hours when I was available. Now everyone thinks I’m just sitting around, so they call all the time. I’m busier than I was when I was playing.

“I could be on the phone all day. I could be speaking to groups every day. I’m constantly hearing, ‘Can you do this? Can you do that?’”

The answer to those questions always was “yes” during Green’s career with the Redskins.

Green played for 20 seasons and in 313 games for the club, both franchise records and league records for any player with one team.

He started for two championship teams, was selected for the Pro Bowl seven times and in 1996 was voted the NFL’s Man of the Year.

Along the way, Green came to represent for Redskins fans what was best about the franchise. He was there during the good years, sparking the defense for a team that regularly contended for Super Bowl titles during the 1980s and early ‘90s.

He was a steady, respected presence during the club’s decade-long slide, which still continues and includes only one playoff berth. But even in his final few seasons, Green was a marvel, a fortysomething playing a position dominated by players two decades his junior.

Green would like to be part of the Redskins organization again someday, but for now he stays connected mostly through receptionist B.J. Blanchard, trainer emeritus Bubba Tyer and former defensive backfield mates Champ Bailey, Fred Smoot and Rashad Bauman.

“B.J. and Bubba are like family to me,” Green said. “I genuinely care about Fred, Champ, Rashad and those guys. They’re like my sons. But when we talk, it’s not about football. It’s like it will be talking to my son when he calls home from college: ‘How’s it going? Are you getting to your classes on time? Are you healthy?’”

The Redskins have announced that the club will retire Green’s No. 28, an honor previously given only to Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh. Green has not yet heard more from the Redskins about it, but he says he’s not concerned.

“I don’t hold them to doing that, but if they do I’ll be honored,” Green said. “The Redskins don’t owe me anything. The game doesn’t owe me anything.”

Nor does Green feel that he will be missing anything this season.

He won’t miss the chance to stop dynamic Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, whom the Redskins face for the first time on Sept. 14. He won’t miss the chance to play in the Philadelphia Eagles’ new Lincoln Financial Field after two decades as an unwelcome guest at drab and dangerous Veterans Stadium.

“It’s not like I would only start getting ready for the season now,” Green said. “Football started for me in February. My two-a-days at George Mason started in June. But I don’t think I’ll miss it when the games start, either. I enjoyed every year of my career. I started 17 years. Who else did that for the Redskins? I was very fortunate.

“Now I can go to church on Sundays, play golf after church. I’ll go to some games, but if I do, it will be strategic. I won’t go just to be a fan. There will have to be a benefit to it. I can’t live a life of leisure. I have to live a purposeful life.”

That life revolves around family, church, community and the learning centers.

“My real world is the learning centers,” Green said. “People have gotten on me about not expanding faster. We could have more centers, but we have a pretty stringent affiliation process. We would be a better country if we had centers in every community. But we’re fighting the us-and-them mentality and the pocket-change mentality.

“Most people don’t understand the financial, mental and emotional commitment that we require. It’s not a part-time commitment. We’re equal in our commitment to the parents. You can’t be hit and miss with kids.”

In part because Green and his staff have been so committed for nine years, some learning center alumni are in college.

“If I hadn’t found the center in Franklin Commons in seventh grade, I don’t think I would have continued my education as far as I have,” said 21-year-old Stephanie Henderson, who is about to start her senior year at nearby Trinity College. “I was exposed to so many new things: etiquette, typing, computers. As I got older, I would be ridiculed for going to the center instead of hanging out, but the center really helped me focus on my work.”

Miss Henderson has a summer job with the Department of Homeland Security.

“I would love to live to see my students in leadership positions, being mayor of D.C. or a CEO,” Green said. “That would be a real quality impact. I have been in the high altitudes of success, fame and recognition. I know how to live there.

“I also know how it is to live in the projects on food stamps [while growing up in Houston]. I like having influence because I like to take that influence and have a positive impact.”

Green’s impact on his community has been well-recognized, and not just in the humbling ovation he received from fans after his final game last season.

The Washington Baseball Club asked Green to join its effort to ensure that the organization doesn’t ignore poorer D.C. children and neighborhoods while catering to lobbyists and high-rollers. And President Bush gave Green the task of identifying outstanding volunteers across the country and encouraging others to follow their examples.

“It’s an incredible honor and an incredible responsibility,” Green said. “It lets the world know that at the highest levels of our leadership that I’m recognized as more than a football player, that I’m a leader, that I can get the job done.”

And then there is the permanent recognition that will come with the official renaming of Loudoun County’s section of Route 28 “Darrell Green Highway” in September.

“Just down Route 28 in Fairfax County is Sully Plantation and all that word signifies for African-Americans,” Green said. “We’ve come a long way in 140 years when a part of that road can be named for an African American. Darrell Green Highway will create conversation.

“I’m willing to bet that 99 percent of those conversations go beyond football and get to the kind of person I am, my morality, honesty and integrity. That’s influence.”

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