The All-time Green Bay Packer rushing leader and a two-time National Champion running back at Nebraska, Ahman Green, spent Wednesday and Thursday with the 7s Eagles at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. He has flirted with the idea of playing rugby since the Al Caravelli era, and the 36-year-old finally had his baptism in the sport.
“He’s very interested in giving rugby a go and finding a place within rugby and obviously the 7s group, so he came in yesterday and today and we ran him through his paces,” said Eagles coach Matt Hawkins of Green.
“We had a look at where he was at and worked with him to see what opportunities are available, from sort of him being ambassador for us to football players and crossovers, but also giving him an opportunity to sort of give it a shot.”
Hawkins will get his first chance to structure the OTC contracts, residency program and the 7s team the way he wants after the current round of agreements runs out at the end of the year, as several players were inked before Hawkins was named coach. His plan is to have 30 players training full-time at the OTC early next season, with five to seven of them being crossovers, like Green.
The four-time Pro Bowler is married with five children, so it’s possible relocation isn’t something Green is interested in. But if he is, Hawkins seems interested in seeing what he can do.
“Like most guys that have come from the world that he’s come from, he’s in phenomenal shape. They’re unbelievable athletes and they’ve obviously spent a lifetime sort of looking after themselves and making sure they stay in unbelievable condition,” said Hawkins of Green.
“It’s not about his athleticism. Can he learn rugby? Can he understand what he needs to do when he needs to do it? As we’ve seen with a lot of the crossovers that have come through, even the young crossovers, it’s not that easy to figure out, regardless of how athletic you are.
“If you look at a guy like Miles Craigwell, Miles Craigwell three years ago was a much, much worse rugby player than what Miles Craigwell is today. But Miles has taken the time and grown and turned into a really good rugby player. The trick is, can [Green] learn what he needs to learn in time to capitalize on the athleticism he still has? That’s something where we can provide an environment where he can learn, but it’s up to him as to how quickly he does learn and what he does with that.”
Green’s gone home for the time being, and Melville and Hawkins will continue the conversation with him, and if he ultimately decides not to pursue the Olympic rugby dream himself, there may be a role for him as an ambassador, of sorts.
For years, Andy Katoa was the guy in charge of finding potential crossover athletes, like Bennie Brazell, who gave rugby a shot, and Trindon Holliday, who likely would have if he didn’t make it in the NFL (currently with the Broncos). Hawkins and Melville hope Green might slide in and help bend the ears of potential crossovers, or even help fill out the five-to-seven crossover spots Hawkins hopes to have in January.
Author’s note: This flirt session feels different than the one with Maurice Clarett, who was in the middle of trying to sell a book and line up speaking engagements when we made his connection with Tiger Rugby public. By making the trip to the OTC, Green has already shown more earnest interest and commitment than Clarett.