If sophomore-to-be Ti’on Green becomes an outstanding running back for the University of Cincinnati, Bearcats fans have his mother Leticia to thank.
Green verbally committed to Cincinnati in October of his senior year at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, FL, but by National Signing Day the following February, Ti’on was wavering.
“My signing day announcement was broadcast live on Bright House Sports because I won the (Central Florida) Player of the Year award,” said Green. “I was about to sign on the dotted line with USF and my mother moved the paper away and said, ‘No. I will not let you ruin your life. Get out and see something new and meet new people. Get out of Florida and get away from home.’ She’ll try to deny that she did that. You really can’t tell on TV because you just see her slide her hand, but she moved the USF paper right out of the way.”
“He was teetering and leaning toward South Florida for a minute, but my heart said Cincinnati,” said Leticia Strickland. “So I put the Cincinnati paper a little bit above South Florida and he went from there.”
“I had the Cincinnati paper on the left side and USF was on the right,” said Green. “As I went to sign the paper for USF, my mom slipped it out of the way. If you watch it on TV, it looked like we practiced it, but she moved it and gave me a little smile.”
“I just felt like Cincinnati is where he needed to be,” Leticia told me. “I didn’t have anything against South Florida; I was just more at peace with Cincinnati.”
Although Tommy Tuberville was not UC’s head coach when Green signed with the Bearcats in 2012, he’s happy that Ti’on – and Leticia – chose Cincinnati.
“Eddie Gran is one of the better running backs coaches in the country and he likes him,” said Tuberville. “He likes his stamina. This is a tough sport for a running back and what we’re going to ask him to do is be very physical in carrying the ball, blocking, and protecting the quarterbacks.”
UC fans got a limited look at Green as a true freshman last year as he carried 16 times for 72 yards (4.4 ypc), including a 2-yard touchdown vs. Miami. But following the graduation of All-Big East running back George Winn, Ti’on will be in the mix to get significant carries in 2013 along with Ralph David Abernathy IV, and incoming junior college standouts Rodriquez Moore and Hosey Williams.
“I like Ti’on but there’s going to be a lot of competition there,” said Tuberville. “I think Ralph probably came out (of spring practice) as the number one running back, but he’s not the type of guy that’s going to be able to take on linebackers on the blitz on every down. So he’s not going to be an every-down running back.”
“We’re going to run the ball under this coaching staff and I don’t know of one back who can do it by himself,” said Green. “Whatever my role is, I’m just going to step up and do my best to help the Bearcats be successful.”
“I was so proud of him his first year because he went from being a superstar who carried the ball on pretty much every play to having a limited role,” said Ms. Strickland. “He was so positive and had a good spirit. I’ve always taught him to stay humble and when your time comes, to handle business. He’s carried that attitude and I’m a true believer in what’s meant to be.”
As a high school senior, Green showed his talent by carrying 194 times for 1824 yards (9.4 ypc) and 21 touchdowns. Now he looks forward to learning the finer points of his position from Coach Gran who has sent numerous running backs to the NFL including Rudi Johnson, Ronnie Brown, and Brandon Jacobs.
“He’s a phenomenal coach,” said Green. “He sits you down and breaks down the offense as simply as possible so that you’re able to understand it. His track record is crazy but he doesn’t mention it one time. He treats everybody equally and gives everyone a fair chance to showcase their talents.”
“The biggest thing for Ti’on is consistency,” said Gran. “Each day you have to pay attention to the details and the little things and that’s my job as a coach – to get him to do that. Once he decides to do that, he’s going to make a really big contribution to this football team.”
“”He’s got to mature a little bit and he knows that,” said Tuberville. “He hasn’t played that much – especially on this level.”
But Green will get his chance. Ti’on still has three years remaining to make an impact at the school – he claims – that his mother ultimately selected.
“Maybe he took it that way, but he still had the last say,” said Strickland.
“I don’t regret it at all,” Ti’on told me with a grin. “I love it here.”
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