Running back's career gets Green light again
Alex Green was in Portland in early September, working a variety of jobs, moving on to what he figured was the next stage of his life, when the call came from his agent.
The Canadian Football League Hamilton Tiger-Cats were looking for a tailback. Was he interested?
Hey, is the Pope a Catholic?
"From that point, it was on," the former Benson High standout says from his apartment in Hamilton. "I had three days to pack and get to Hamilton."
After three days of practice, head coach June Jones — a fellow Portland native — told Green he would be starting in the next game against the British Columbia Lions. The 6-foot, 230-pounder was ready.
Green carried 13 times for 140 yards to key the Tiger-Cats' 24-23 upset victory last Saturday.
It was Green's first game action since playing with the NFL's New York Jets in 2013 — nearly four years ago.
"I felt a little rusty in practice, but I got the cobwebs off quickly," he says. "I felt great during the game. I was a little surprised to gain that many yards, but I had a good week of practice. I knew we had a good game plan. I was ready to go.
"It felt great to be back on the field, doing what I love. Brought me back to my Hawaii days."
A little more than a year ago, the Portland Tribune chronicled Green's rags-to-riches story (
After stops at Eastern Arizona and Butte (California) College, Green wound up on the streets, living in his 1998 Chevy Lumina in a Walmart parking lot for a spell. He wound up at Hawaii, where he had a banner senior season, rushing for 1,199 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Green went on to play three seasons for Green Bay and New York before being released by the Jets prior to the 2014 season. At that point, he returned to Portland, working primarily as a personal trainer until landing a job as an assistant coach and equipment manager at Hawaii for the 2016 football season.
"That gave me the drive to want to play ball again — going to the practice, going to the meetings and so on," Green says. "It gave me the itch to get back."
Last December, he returned to Portland and lived with his mother. Green kept in shape, and in February signed a make-good contract that got him to training camp with the Tiger-Cats. He made it to the final round of cuts but was victim of a limit on the number of U.S. players a CFL team can have on its roster.
"I was a little bummed," he says."It was frustrating. I understand the business of the game, but I still wanted to play. I still had the urge."
Green returned again to Portland. He worked as a personal trainer, started a cleaning business and began to put together a foundation where he would work with youths in football, basketball and track.
All the while, he kept in shape, hoping for an opportunity.
In early September, Jones took over as interim head coach of the Tiger-Cats. He wanted some help at running back. He watched video of Green in the preseason. "Alex played well," Jones says. "I was surprised he got cut."
Jones — who had coached at Hawaii from 1999-2007 but had never met Green — appealed to general manager Eric Tillman, who authorized Green's signing.
On the bus to the game against the Lions in Vancouver, Jones spoke with Green.
"He asked where I was from," Green says. "I said, 'Portland.' He said he was from Portland, too. He asked where I grew up. I told him, "Northeast 26th and Dekum.' He told me he grew up on Northeast 33rd. I was surprised. I told him, 'I didn't know you were from Portland, let alone my own neighborhood.' It was surreal."
Jones and Green bonded immediately.
"I love him as a coach," Green says. "I like his laid-back approach. He doesn't get rattled when things go south. He doesn't get too excited when things are great. That's one of the keys to success for a coach — keep that happy medium. I love that approach."
When Green last played football in 2014, he was dealing with knee and shoulder injuries.
"I didn't have surgeries, but I wasn't right, either," he says. "I think all the time off helped. Other than nicks and bruises from the (B.C.) game, I feel great.
"I'm 29, but I played only three (NFL) seasons. I'm like a third- or fourth-year guy. I'm a young 29."
Green is signed only through the rest of the season.
"I would love to come back to Hamilton," he says."If they want to re-sign me, I'll be more than happy to play here again."
Green says he has learned much from his time away from football.
"Stand true to myself is one of the main things I learned," he says. "Believing in the dream, sticking to it and never giving up. Stay dedicated. And when the opportunity comes, you have to be ready. It will come. If you're not ready, you have to look yourself in the mirror."