On Friday afternoons, Cornelius Green's aunt and uncle stood outside the fence surrounding Dunbar High School's dusty football field and watched their nephew play. Because his relatives had trouble distinguishing him from his teammates, Green painted his shoes red.
Green's teammates liked the idea, and they painted their shoes red, too. But Green one-upped them: he started wearing red and black tassels on his socks and the back of his helmet.
"My people didn't know much about football so I added things to my uniform so they could recognize me," Green recalled. "The next day, I read in the paper I was flamboyant. I didn't know what the word meant so I looked it up. In those days, everyone had tough nicknames, like 'Killer' and 'Monster' but I wasn't hardly tough. So I kept the name Flam."
Five years ago, Green also decided to change the spelling of his last name, dropping the "e" because he was tired of seeing his name spelled incorrectly. It was a typical move for a player once described in The Post as the "flamboyant flimflam man."
Green kept memories aplenty from his high school days, when he was not only a colorful competitor but a talented one. He threw 28 touchdown passes and ran for 12 more in leading the Crimson Tide to the Interhigh League West Division football title in 1971.
Among Green's memories are those of a division playoff game against Cardozo that year, when he ran for a touchdown and threw two scoring passes, both in the second half to rally his team to a 22-14 win and a berth in the championship game against Eastern. Green also played safety and intercepted two passes, one setting up a score.
Football heroics are largely memories now for Green, 28. Although he was a star quarterback at Ohio State and was MVP in the '74 Rose Bowl, Green did not make it in the National Football League or the Canadian Football League. He was subsequently a standout in semipro ball, but decided "it was time to try other things." He is now planning to leave Columbus, Ohio, and return to Washington permanently, hoping to get a job in marketing or public relations.
Green was gregarious, popular and free-spirited in high school; he was selected as The Post's offensive player of the year in football. He was an all-Interhigh basketball choice after averaging 24 points a game and was 9-1 as a pitcher and batted .500 for the baseball team.
"Of all the games I've played, my biggest disappointment came in my final athletic event at Dunbar," Green said. "We trailed Anacostia, 4-3, and had the bases loaded in the last inning in a playoff game. I hit a long fly to center and the runner on third didn't tag up to come home. The next guy flied out and we lost. My (high school) career sort of ended on a bad note.
"All my life, I thought baseball was my best game but I got all my notoriety and media attention from football. Everything fell in place on the football field."
Green had more than 100 college scholarship offers to consider before selecting Ohio State. He was the Buckeyes' first black quarterback.
"A lot of schools offered me things, my girlfriend a scholarship, money and other stuff but I wasn't interested. People told me different things about schools but I made up my mind I wanted to go to Ohio State. Coach (Woody) Hayes didn't offer me a thing. All Woody talked about was life."
Green never graduated from Ohio State, but says he plans to take the three classes necessary for his degree in the fall because it is important to "my relatives and to me. There's no doubt I'll get the degree. That's the one thing my aunt (Jennie Floyd) wanted me to do."
When Green got to Ohio State, he quickly found out he lacked something. "I don't think I was quite prepared academically when I left Dunbar," Green said. "I had a 2.9 when I left Dunbar and considering I played three sports for three years, I thought that was pretty good."
The cultural shock, the lack of some academic skills and the possibility he might not be good enough to play quarterback at the Big Ten school only served to motivate Green.
"My roommate was Archie Griffin and he would tell me to 'stay with it, everything will be okay.' Soon, things started to work out," Green said. "Flam was gone now and I was just Cornelius Green again."
Under Green's leadership, the Buckeyes won 30 of 34 games and two Rose Bowls. Green's college career showed 146 completions in 365 attempts for 2,348 yards, 17 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions. He ran the ball 420 times for 2,066 yards and scored 29 times.
Such statistics led Green to believe he would be, at worst, a fourth-round pick in the NFL draft. Dallas took him in the 11th round.
Green signed with Dallas for about $25,000. He was switched to receiver and hurt his hand. He was released the week before the season opener and was picked up by Seattle, played sparingly in six games and was released again.
"Getting dropped never gets easier," Green said. "It's like having a chair pulled out from under you. But you have to get on with your life."
Green took another fling at the pro game, playing in Canada with the B.C. Lions in 1976-77. But Green said the club was losing money and cut him in an economy move. Wanting to prove to himself that he could still play, Green spent two years with the Columbus Metros, a semipro team.
"I guess I had to try again just to show myself," he said. "I was selected all-semipro so I knew I still had the ability. I could have gone to an NFL camp again after leaving the semipro team, but I decided it was time to try other things. And at this stage of my life, I didn't want to get hurt."
Green, who worked as a color analyst for the Ohio State football games, a youth director for the city of Columbus and in public relations with a consulting firm, has no regrets.
"The jobs I had weren't comparable with NFL salaries," he said, "but my heart was in them."