In his final two seasons at Greenville High School, Gerri Green played various positions on the gridiron and rarely, if ever, left the field. At the time, the now Mississippi State fifth-year senior was simply looking to find his niche on the field and encounter success.
Green eventually wowed perspective SEC programs with his God-given talent. So he naturally collected numerous SEC offers and SEC opportunities. But one thing Green didn’t experience much at Greenville High School, which was known as Greenville Wesson when Green played there, was a winning feeling.
He never experienced a playoff game in high school and never got to talk about how far his team advanced in the postseason. But these past five years, Green has gotten a taste of postseason play for his entire Bulldog career. And that will to win is one of many phrases that can describe his college tenure in Starkville.
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During that 2018 defensive end campaign, Green had 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, while starting 13 games for a Mississippi State defense with 3 first-round picks, including two on the defensive front (Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat). Green was a 2018 team captain for the Bulldogs.
At 6-4 and 252 pounds, Green ran 4.65 in the 40-yard dash, which is something that certainly caught the eye of the Colts.
Green said NFL teams were pretty split in projecting him as a linebacker or defensive end at the next level.
With the Colts, it’s no guarantee that Green will make the roster. Reserve defensive ends—behind starters Jabaal Sheard and Justin Houston—include Turay and Al Quadin-Muhammad. And the likes of Tyquan Lewis and Ben Banogu can also take up some D-end snaps.
But a high-motor player, with that quick burst off the snap, will always be attractive to the Colts.
Well, the Colts currently have another close similarity with one of their draft picks
Kemoko Turay is the NFL player that sixth-round pick Gerri Green most resembles from a size and testing standpoint.
The dominant trait in both of those players comes from their get off the ball, something the Colts key on when searching for edge rushers.
Green, who was the 199th overall pick out of Mississippi State, actually played more linebacker than defensive end in college.
It will be a hand-in the-dirt, defensive end position that the Colts will try Green at first in the NFL though. That is where Green played his final season at Mississippi State, following three prior years at linebacker.
That winning feeling became more and more common for Green with each passing season. Looking back, it is something Green couldn’t envision.
“I really didn’t,” said Green. “Since I’ve gotten closer to the end of it here, I am just thankful and blessed to be here. A lot of guys, especially around playoff time in Mississippi, talk about their team making it to the first or second round. They ask me the furthest I made it to and I told them I never made the playoffs and actually how many games we won.
“And now, it’s been great to go to a bowl game all the time. That helped me here because of my desire to win. When I came here it helped my work ethic and I wanted it so bad. So Greenville helped me become the player I am today.”
He also learned to adapt. He lined up at outside linebacker as a freshman and played a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role last year as a junior. Then as a sophomore and this current season, Green was a defensive end.
To Green, it was simply adversity he had to face, and get through. And now, those various changes have become “blessings” to him.
“It just helped me in the big picture,” said Green. “It seemed every year it was something new or a new way of doing things. At first and when I was younger, it was like ‘oh man, here we go again’. But now being older and looking back on it, it was for the better. Dealing with adversity is part of it and being to play multiple positions helped me become a versatile player. It was a blessing for me because I can play outside linebacker or defensive end.”
It also helped, of course, that Green was productive regardless of his position. He’s started 25 consecutive games in the Maroon and White and will get his 26th straight start on New Year’s Day in the Outback Bowl. Entering his final collegiate game, Green has totaled 160 career tackles with 20 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
His play has drawn the attention of NFL scouts and he is considered a mid-round draft prospect for April’s NFL Draft. Green has already received his college degree in agriculture business. Once his college career concludes, Green will begin to start training for the next level and he has yet to determine where he will train.
His position at the next level has not been pin-pointed yet, either. But he wouldn’t be surprised to return to linebacker when his pro career begins.
“They haven’t said exactly yet,” said Green of his NFL prospects. “But I am thinking probably the outside linebacker role to where I can walk back into coverage or be close to the line. I have shown that I have the ability to do that.”
Green is one of several NFL Draft hopefuls on the defensive side of the ball. That group will be in the spotlight at various combines and pro day events, and will likely included multiple first-round selections. But all season long, Green and his teammates kept their eye on the current situation.
There will be a place and time for serious NFL talk and discussions about the future. But this season, the defensive side of the ball did their job on another level, ranking No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, and Top 10 nationally in several other categories.
“Not that much,” said Green of the NFL Draft. “We all did a good job this year of just focusing on week to week on the games at hand. Even when guys were getting weekly SEC awards, we stayed humble and stayed true to the task at hand.”
Concerning the Bulldogs’ future, Green has given that aspect some thought. The veteran experience on defense has been a talking point all season long and many of those contributors will not be on the 2019 roster. But Green believes his class set the standard and that the younger guys will follow suit.
“At the linebacker position, Erroll (Thompson) has become a leader for our defense,” said Green of the future. “Not even being an upperclassmen, with him being at mike (linebacker), he is the vocal part of the defense. He is coming back and he will keep going. Then we have guys on the back end like Cam Dantzler and Mo (Maurice Smitherman) and they will be great. And C.J. (Morgan) played great in the minutes he got.”
His thoughts are echoed on the defensive line. Green, Montez Sweat, Jeffery Simmons, Braxton Hoyett and Cory Thomas among others will be in different places next year. But there’s still talent returning at defensive end and depth, as well.
“Those guys had so many reps this year, especially at the end position with Chauncey (Rivers) and Kobe Jones and Fletch (Adams),” said Green. I don’t think they will miss a beat. Some younger guys will have to step up in the middle like Fabo (Fabien Lovett) and Jaden Crumedy. We saw them develop in practice and get better and better.
“I am excited to see them come back. As long as they keep working hard, they know we set the standard and showed them how to play and practice. If they do all of that then we will be fine.”
But first things first. Green has one more chance to “play with the guys”. That final opportunity comes against Iowa and a victory there would give the Bulldogs a 9-win season. In three of the last four seasons the Bulldogs have won 9 games or more, and Green wants another one.
He arrived in Starkville nearly five years ago just wanting to be part of a winning program and do so for the first time in his life. He found that success but so much more in Starkville.
“Just one last time to play with this team,” said Green. “I get to play with the guys I came in with. We’ve been through so much together in these five years. I want to have that moment with them and get those extra practices. If we didn’t have these practices then everyone would be gone on their separate ways. But I get to be around them a little longer is a blessing.
“I look back at all the life lessons it taught me. There’s so many lessons I’ve learned here. I am not the same 18-year old that walked through those doors at first. I am leaving this place a better person and I hope I helped to make this place better while I was here.”