WINNIPEG - James Green literally stumbled upon the sport of football.
As a Grade 11 student at Clarence Fulton Secondary School in Vernon, B.C., Green caught his big break in rather unlikely fashion.
“It’s a funny story, I was walking down the hallway one day and the high school coach (Mike Schellar) said he had seen me playing basketball and that I was an aggressive basketball player, so he asked me to come out to play football,” said Green, a member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers entering his third CFL season. “In that first game, I scored six touchdowns. I never looked back.”
While his days of offensive glory are probably behind him, Blue Bombers general manager Joe Mack approached Green last season and asked him if he’d ever played running back before.
When Green, a backup safety last season, told Mack he was actually a part-time running back at Butte Community College in Chico, Calif., he was told to prepare for the possibility of coming to camp this year and battling for a fullback job with fellow non-import Scott McHenry.
“The biggest part of the transition is just understanding the concepts, the blocking schemes and when you have fronts, you have to designate who you are blocking, They’re going to bring pressure and you have to figure out what’s going on,” said Green, who got a few helpful hints from friend and Calgary Stampeders fullback Rob Cote.
“You’re trying to read the map.”
Green needed to pack on 10-to-15 pounds during his off-season training, but moving around the field has become routine for Green over the years.
“I’ve never ever gone into two consecutive seasons playing the same position in my whole football career,” said Green, who’s been a running back, receiver, returner, defensive back, linebacker and now a fullback during his football career.
Green was born in B.C. but moved to California as a toddler before moving back to Canada for high school. His first CFL memory is one many Blue Bombers’ fans long for.
“The last time this team won a Grey Cup was in 1990 and I saw the Blue Bombers win it on TV,” said Green, who played baseball, soccer and basketball growing up in California and was a huge skateboarding fan. “At the time, I didn’t even know they had professional football in Canada. It’s funny, I was thinking about that today when I looked down at my helmet.”
The Blue Bombers are one of the many CFL teams who don’t have their fullback on the field a great deal, the chance to try and open up holes for Fred Reid has Green excited.
Besides, Green will still have an opportunity to contribute on special teams.
“Absolutely, that’s my forte right now,” said Green. “It’s the reason I’m here.”
Blue Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice feels Green is handling the transition to fullback well to this point.
“James is physical and he’ll hit you, so we figured that would be a good change,” said LaPolice. “He’s actually taken the spot Andre Sadeghian had last year. He still has some learning to do about understanding the offence completely, but it’s been a good move.”
“The biggest thing when you make any transition is to know your assignments,” said Bombers centre Obby Khan. “Eighty per cent of the game is played above the shoulders, so put yourself in the right position, know your rules. If you can accomplish all of that, (Green) is a great athlete and he can put himself in position to make the block.”
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: James Green
AGE: 27 (28 on June 22)
BORN: Vernon, B.C.
WEIGHT: 217 pounds
COLLEGE: University of Calgary
SEASON: Third CFL season
Chosen in third round (18th overall) by Toronto Argonauts in 2009
Played 18 games with Toronto in 2009, recording 19 special teams tackles
Appeared in eight games with Winnipeg in 2010, picking up 12 special teams tackles
Was a Canada West All-Star at safety for Dinos in 2008