Alex Green was driving his nine-year-old daughter to her Grandmother’s house in Portland, Oregon last week, when his phone buzzed. It was his agent with a simple, totally unexpected text message: the Hamilton Tiger-Cats want to sign you.
“At that moment,” Green says. “Everything stops.”
Green thought he was done with football and with good reason. He’d gone from college star, to NFL draft pick to Sunday starter to out of the game for almost two years due to injury. He returned last spring to tryout with the Ticats but was among the team’s final cuts.
“I thought that was it,” Green says. “I don’t want to say I lost faith but I was transitioning to life after football.”
That meant more time with his three children, getting his sports foundation off the ground, his first forays into personal training. He was still eating right and working out – with kids, you lead by example – but he figured football days were over.
On Saturday, he’ll start at running back for Hamilton against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver. Assuming the family can get their passports done on time, two of his kids – nine-year-old daughter Harlem and six-year-old son Kingston – will watch him play for the first time. At 29, one of his greatest regrets will be turned into an improbable triumph.
Football’s brutal arithmetic being what it is, Green’s good fortune has come at someone else’s expense, namely fellow running back C.J. Gable who will miss Friday’s game with the B.C. Lions due to a shoulder injury.
Head coach June Jones said Gable got hurt during last Friday’s loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“I had a long talk with him about it. I noticed late in the game, he wasn’t C.J.,” Jones said. “With those types of injuries, it’s got to heal. He feels a lot better but I think we’re going to go the other way.”
Gable has played in eight games this season and has 56 carries for 309 yards and three touchdowns while adding 24 catches for 186 yards. Jones said left to his own devices, Gable would probably just tough it out.
“C.J.’s a good football player and I really like his heart,” Jones said. “He gives you everything he has.”
That said, Jones likes what he’s seen from Green as well. At 6-foot-2, 220-pounds, he has remarkable speed for player of his size and his pervious experience with the run-and-shoot offence – he played his college ball at Hawaii just after Jones left the head coaching job – has helped quicken his learning curve.
“I watched all the Hawaii games and I went back and watched the pre-season he had here and he’s a football player,” Jones said. “When I watched him the first day in practice, I knew he’d done the same things we’re doing.”
Green said he weighed the pros and cons of returning to football briefly before signing on with Hamilton again – leaving his family behind again was the toughest part. But the timing of the call, how quickly things fell into place made the decision easy.
“I love the game and I’ve sacrificed so much for the game, when opportunity comes knocking, I have to take it every time,” he said. ” Getting released in June sucked but I got a chance to be home with the family and now I get chance to play football. In a sense, I got my cake and got to eat it, too.”