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'It's Just Exciting for All of Us'

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Darrell Green will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday as part of the Class of 2008. The cornerback, long known as the fastest man in the NFL, played his entire career with the Washington Redskins from 1983 to 2002, was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was part of two Super Bowl champions. He finished with 54 interceptions and electrified Redskins fans as a punt returner. The Post's Jason Reid spoke with Green about his life and career.

Q: Giving back to the community is something that's so important to you. If you'd just talk a little bit about things that you do to try to give back.

Green: Well, the whole idea of service obviously started with God. But my mom would make us give stuff to people. She would say, "Take this food, or these clothes or whatever." . . . We saw our mom giving, and I just found myself naturally thinking, "Man, where can I go and support people?"

I got into D.C. with the rec department and doing things with them. Got a chance to see up close and personal some of the needs and issues in the community. Started Youth Life Foundation [in 1988], said, "How can I help, how can I make a difference?" And it's just God's grace, you know, I feel that God put that in my heart to do. That's who I am, that's part of my person.

Q: Going into the Hall of Fame now. It's been such a buildup. So many people are just so excited for you and your family. How has this been for your family?

Green: (Laughs) Incredible. Incredible. My son will be the one that introduces me. My daughter said, "Dad, I never really thought about it until one day I was sitting, and I was thinking to myself, 'When you go to Canton, Ohio,' " she said, " 'Dad, my children's children's children's children will be able to see this.' " She said, "Wow." She said, "And it hit me, like, 'Wow.' "

Obviously my wife and I, we both played with the Redskins for 20 years, so we retired, we're excited about it. She's been with me my whole adult life. We've been married 23 years. It's just exciting for all of us, my family. My little one just graduated high school, so everybody's out of high school now, and it's pretty neat, it's pretty neat. And the family is just taking it in stride.

Q: You know, you talk about the evolution of a cornerback, and I think Bill Parcells said recently there's no such thing as a shutdown corner anymore. But you in your era were a shutdown corner. They lined you up and you could take out the other team's best receiver. Is it just that the rules are difficult now? I mean, could you thrive the way you did in today's game?

Green: Yeah, what's the difference? But I think that to really make a good point. I don't think they have the shutdown corner because the kids don't put the effort in trying to develop themselves to do those jobs. But I think more importantly is the defenses won't allow it. . . .

It's one thing to have two wideouts and a tight end, because I can take that one guy, you can double the other guys, and do a combination on the tight end and the backs. If you got four wides, well, you got one Darrell Green. We've got mismatches. So, now Darrell, sorry, you don't get to do that, we've gotta play you within some kind of zone-based boring kind of defense, the way they have to play now.

Q: Is it the toughest position in football, I mean, when you . . .

Green: Hands down, hands down. Well, it's, no, no, no, no. It's not now.

Q: Well, I mean, when you played.

Green: The way I played it, it was. But, now, I mean, you got corners, Tampa 2 [zone defense] corners don't even have to be able to run, just some big guy trying to get a jam and go up and make a tackle on the back. So it's a different game. I shouldn't sound so harsh about these guys, but it is what is. But the game has changed. It's like basketball. They had to start playing zone, they didn't used to play zone. And so, the game's changed, and the evolution takes place within sports. I was fortunate enough to get my time. . . . I wouldn't necessarily be a Hall of Famer had I played this Tampa 2 stuff. As a matter of fact, I don't think I would at all.

Q: You know, you talk about your career. What were the greatest moments for you? I know about the Super Bowls, the Pro Bowls, but as you look back, what were the greatest moments?

Green: The greatest moments were the times sitting with guys on the sideline and Bible studies on the plane, in the locker room, building relationships at the birthday parties with the kids, at the hospitals when the babies were born. The relationships that we had, the feeling that we had for one another, and many moments in that huddle, you know, when guys were saying different things about what's happening on the field and, you know, pulling us together.

It's a lot of great moments like that, including great moments that I had with my opponents. Moments of fellowship, of relationship within the context of competing that I'll never forget. Again, when I say these names, some guys -- Roy Green, Mike Quick, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Irving Fryar -- those guys, you know, back in the day [Mark] Duper, [Mark] Clayton, [James] Lofton, those guys when we were playing, Charlie Joiner. Back in those years when it was a different game, when there was a great respect for your opponent, great competition but a different level of respect.

Q: Was it your desire? Is that the reason why people who might have been thought of more highly than you are not in your position right now, getting ready to go into the Hall of Fame?

Green: Oh yeah. In other words, the 27 guys drafted ahead of me or whatever the number, defensive backs drafted ahead of me, why am I more successful than them? That's no mystery. . . . Texas A&I -- that's not Notre Dame, that's not USC, Michigan. So, I think that I was better than those guys [from] Day One. It's just who had, who was going to succumb to the stereotype or whatever that the guy playing at the little school can't compete. In other words, I didn't get better than those guys, I was better in the beginning. And so, could've played in any of those schools. They just, again, when you're coming out of school looking like me, only one year of varsity, a midget. I mean, I don't blame them. Who would pull the trigger for a kid like me? But, the reality is, I was better than the guys ahead of me.

Q: How emotional are you going to be on [Saturday], you know, with your son up there making the presentation to get his dad up there?

Green: I think it'll be something basic. I think I'll be up there just chillin', it won't be a big deal. (laughs)

Q: How you really going be?

Green: I don't know, man (laughs). I don't know (laughs). I don't think about it much, but, you know, I am generally an emotional person sometimes, so it could be but, I don't think about it much.

Tomorrow: An interview with Art Monk.

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