For the first time since he was 7 years old, Julius Green spent the fall doing something other than playing defensive end on a football field.
Green, a Kansas University commitment who graduated from Aldine High outside of Houston last May, had to sit out the 2010 season because of a snafu with one of his high school classes that left him ineligible. Instead of joining the Jayhawks, Green enrolled at Houston Community College, where he took the class he needed and waited.
With just one class on his plate and a world of motivation in his pocket, Green turned into a full-time workout machine during the past six months. He added nearly 30 pounds to his 6-foot-7 frame and spent every day looking forward to his next tackle.
“It was really hard,” Green said of life away from football. “Working by yourself, you don’t get the full experience like you do when you’re working with a team. It’s easy to lose focus when you’re by yourself. It’s a lot about mental strength and having the will to keep going.”
Having the game he loves taken away from him gave Green new perspective and inspired him to treat his daily workouts like a job. Because he was able to stick to them — and improve in the process — Green said he feels he’s ahead of the game. Green plans to arrive at KU as a mid-year transfer this month. He expects to participate in spring practices and will have four years of eligibility remaining.
“I talked to a lot of my friends, and they all said, ‘College is fun, man. Your freshman year’s the best,’” Green said. “But then when I went up there to Kansas on my second visit just a couple of weeks ago, some players who I met on the last visit were no longer with the team or had dropped out of college because they weren’t doing well in their classes. That made me realize that your first year might be your funnest year, but my freshman year in high school was my funnest too, and look where it got me. So I’m gonna make sure I do everything right.”
Green is far from a finished product on the field, but he has the tools to be a beast at the Div. I level. As his high school coach, Lionell Crawford, once said about him: “You can’t teach 6-foot-7.”
Beyond that, Green is a true student of his position. He first started watching college and professional football on television during middle school and estimates that he learned something from every game he watched. His favorite player is Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, but he also takes pointers from countless others.
“I like DeMarcus Ware. I like Mario Williams. I watch D-ends in every game,” he said. “I might not know all of their names, but they all have something to teach.”
As luck would have it, KU offers Green a link to his favorite player. KU’s strength and conditioning coach, John Williams, and defensive coordinator, Carl Torbush, both coached Peppers at the University of North Carolina.
“Stuff like that really caught me and was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Kansas,” Green said. “A scholarship is enough of a reason, but that gives me more of a reason, to go play for a coach who has coached people who are doing great right now.”
In order to emulate his idols, Green knows he has work to do. And it starts with speed.
“The main thing I think I could improve is my acceleration in the open field,” Green said. “I’ve always been able to get off the line pretty quick. I’ve always been good with my hands and hand placement. I’m good with technique. I’m just trying to get faster.”
In addition to defensive end — a position of great need for the Jayhawks — Green hopes to play tight end, as well.
“That’s why I’m trying to get my speed up,” he said. “I’ve played quarterback, I’ve played defensive end, and I’ve played tight end. Obviously, they’re not gonna have me play quarterback, but they said they might try me at tight end.”
Green knows he was recruited to be an impact pass rusher, and he’s not going to let his dreams of playing tight end get in the way of his development there. But the Houston native is a football player through and through, and he wants to play every snap he can. He’s even planning to pick his KU number based on keeping the tight-end avenue alive.
“If I go both ways and never come off the field, that’s how it’s always been for me,” said Green, who wore No. 90 in high school. “I was hoping for a number that goes both ways, something I could wear as a defensive end and a tight end. Maybe No. 31 or 32. I like both of those, and I’m hoping one might be open.”
Junior fullback Steven Foster wore 31 during 2010 but has left the team. Red-shirt freshman safety Dexter wore No. 32.
Regardless of how things play out at tight end, Green comes to Kansas with big-time expectations and a starting spot in mind.
“I’ll be there during spring ball, and I’m going to stay up there during the summer to make sure I’m ready for the season,” he said. “I plan on doing everything I have to do to start.”
Said Crawford of Green’s potential during the recruiting process: “He’s a find for someone. He has the frame and a big motor. He’s so physical, we have to tone him down some at practice.”