Sr. S Courtney Greene
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - When Ray Rice announced his decision to enter the NFL draft, Rutgers football teammate and childhood friend Courtney Greene faced a similar crossroads. However, unlike Rice, who's a likely second or third rounder, Greene returned for his senior year On the Banks.
"I think he did what was best for him, felt it was time to go," Greene said of Rice, his teammate and friend since youth leagues. "I think he made a good decision with what he did. I just felt with my decision that I wanted to come back to school."
Although Courtney Greene, a preseason member of the Watch List for the Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the nation's top
defensive player (and most recently a Lott Trophy Watch List honoree), has maintained a successful collegiate career in three years of starting, he wanted to come back and complete the mission.
"I had a lot to work on, finish business here," Greene said. "There's a lot I want to accomplish here as a Rutgers football player. I have one more shot to do it."
In his first year, Greene led the Scarlet Knights with 116 tackles, including 11 and a forced fumble in his debut.
He credited the leadership ability and experience to former safety Ron Girault, who quarterbacked the Knights defense to their third straight bowl appearance.
"He taught me how to come out here and go hard no matter what, not be comfortable and how to lead," Greene said of Girault. "If something doesn't go right, you take charge. He's the reason I'm in this position right now. Without him, I wouldn't be here."
What drives Greene to pummel an opposing running back or deliver a monstrous hit to a receiver cutting across the field?
"Love for the game," Greene said. "Anyone who comes out here and puts in the work that we do has to love it."
"You can't just like this. It's something that all of us love. I just love doing it, something that God has blessed me with. I'm going to do it everyday to the best of my ability."
After this season, Greene will have the opportunity to compete professionally. In the meantime, younger players have accepted crucial roles to Rutgers' progression.
One of those players is Joe Lefeged, who took over for an injured Girault last year.
"He's growing everyday," Greene said of the true sophomore safety. "Last year, he came in and played his role, made a lot of plays and now people know who he is. Now, he has a better understanding of the game, understands
how to play safety. I think he's getting better every day."
Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano understands the difficulty in losing Girault, an undoubted leader in the secondary.
But, Schiano stills anticipates continued growth and progress.
"Yeah, when you have experience and experience that has played well, as I told them, you need to get better," Schiano told reporters after Thursday's practice. "If you don't get better, you get worse. The challenge has been laid there. Quite frankly, they lost their leader Ron Girault, the leader back there. I'm anxious to see
who takes control of the secondary."
When asked if Greene can shepherd the defensive flock, Schiano replied, "Yeah, he's a three-year starter, a little bit older. I'm hoping he does, along with the twins (Devin and Jason McCourty)."
Having a top tier offense in practice prepares Greene for the challenging regular season schedule.
"When the defense goes against a first offense, it's always competitive," Greene said. "I think that's our advantage. We have great wide receivers that can do anything."
Greene also discussed the recent changes in the schedule, focusing on Rutgers' season opener versus Fresno State.
"They're a good football team," he said. "You get to play a good team. It's an opportunity for us to show what we can do. Any passing team, I think the secondary gets excited about people who talk about how much they can pass. I think it'll be a competitive battle."
Meanwhile, the Knights face an important task of replacing Rice in the backfield. Greene remains steadfast about not underestimating Mason Robinson and Joe Martinek.
"We have a running back that keeps us honest and backs run all over us, so it's like Ray's not here anymore, but they're still running all over us, so it keeps us honest," Greene said.