The first time I met A.J. Green was boarding a bus at Paul Brown Stadium before my first game as the team’s radio announcer. The Bengals were headed to the airport for the 2011 preseason opener in Detroit and since I was still broadcasting games for the Pawtucket Red Sox at that time, I had not been able to attend training camp.
So I pounced on the opportunity to introduce myself to the Bengals number one draft pick and in the course of our conversation I asked, “What does A.J. stand for?”
“Adriel Jeremiah,” he replied.
What a majestic-sounding name I thought.
Following Sunday’s 37-3 win over Cleveland, it occurred to me how fortunate we are to watch A.J. Green every week.
We’ve been blessed in Cincinnati to have some of the greatest players in sports history spend much of their careers here: Oscar Robertson, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey Jr., Anthony Munoz, and Ken Anderson to name a few. While it’s too early to rank Green among the NFL’s all-time greats, the numbers suggest that he is headed in that direction.
With his 128 receiving yards against the Browns, A.J. joined Randy Moss as the second receiver in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards in each of his first five seasons.
Additionally, Green is currently on a pace to finish the season with 93 receptions. If he increases that slightly and ends the year with 98 or more, he’ll break Larry Fitzgerald’s record for most catches by an NFL player in his first five years.
“I’m just having fun out here with my teammates,” said Green. “I think that’s the biggest thing. Winning is fun. It’s the first time that I’ve been a part of a 10-2 team and it feels great. It motivates you to get better each week.”
In the Green/Dalton era, the Bengals now have twice as many wins (50) as losses (25) during the regular season.
“They’ve been joined at the hip which is so fun and so cool about them,” said Marvin Lewis. “They’re everything you want in every way. They’re great role models and they’re great leaders for the rest of the football team.”
“We came in together and how we’ve grown over the last five seasons is unbelievable,” said Green.
The 27-year-old receiver is not one to boast, but even he had to admit that his third quarter Baryshnikov-like toe-tap catch at the one yard line was a thing of beauty.
“It’s always a good highlight when you get that toe tap and fall out of bounds,” said Green with a grin. “So that was a good one.”
A.J. says that he had a little extra motivation in making the grab – he didn’t want to get criticized by wide receivers coach James Urban.
“The last couple of years I have been out of bounds by a heel a few times so I knew that I needed to get my toes down so that ‘Urb’ won’t yell at me,” Green told me. “This time I got my toes down so that was good.”
Yes, the four-time Pro Bowler is not beyond trying to please his coaches.
When the Bengals selected Green with the fourth pick in the 2011 draft, I’ll admit that I was skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I had no doubt that A.J. could be a terrific player, but I questioned the wisdom of drafting a receiver that high.
I have rarely been so happy to be so wrong.
His game is as majestic as his name.