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Thursday, July 31, 2014         

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Striking a balance

In the Warriors' offense, the running back's main role is blocking -- but Alex Green found openings to break 1,000 rush yards

By Stephen Tsai

POSTED:


Hawaii running back Alex Green's quest for balance began in a training facility near his home in Portland, Ore.

With a medicine ball in one hand, Green would try to run across a narrow board. In another drill, he would hold a weighted bar above his head while doing a one-legged squat.

The disciplines, he said, were designed to improve balance, an important skill for a running back who relies on quick cuts.

"It took a lot of work," Green said.

Green also has managed to find balance as a football player -- he set a UH single-game record with 327 rushing yards this past Saturday -- college student and father.

"Growing up, he has never caused us any problems," said his mother, Phyllis Smith, an operational manager for a Northwest insurance company.

She said the family has jokingly nicknamed him the "Chosen One" following a childhood incident. During a trip to Disneyland, when he was 7, a fly was buzzing in the car.

"Everyone was trying to swat the fly while he was sleeping," Smith recalled. "He wakes out of a deep sleep, then swats the fly we were trying to get for the last 45 minutes. We called him the 'Chosen One' because a lot of good things happen to him. But he also has worked hard to overcome a lot of adversity."

As a high school senior, Green was added as an alternate to a Portland all-star game. A few days before the game, a running back was injured, and Green was summoned. He ended up being named the game's most valuable player.

Eastern Arizona (junior) College was the only school to offer him a scholarship. But when he arrived, the head coach had left. He transferred to California's Butte College.

After his freshman year at Butte, he learned he was going to become a father. His daughter, Harlym, was born three days before the start of training camp.

He took a job working at a hardware store. When that conflicted with his school and football schedule, he worked odd jobs.

At UH, he said he eats two meals a day -- a large serving at the morning training table and dinner. He sends the money saved from the third meal and other earnings to his daughter's mother in Portland.

RUSH YARDS PER GAME

OPPONENT YARDS YPA TDS
USC 66 7.3 1
at Army 40 6.7 1
at Colorado 3 0.5 0
Charleston Southern 24 6.0 1
Louisiana Tech 19 3.2 0
at Fresno State 96 7.4 3
Nevada 68 5.2 0
at Utah State 172 12.3 4
Idaho 74 7.4 1
at Boise State 107 10.7 1
San Jose State 36 4.5 1
at New Mexico State 327 17.2 3
TOTALS 1,032 8.7 16

"No sacrifice, no reward," Green said. "Whether it's through football or a degree, I want to be able to support my family."

Green said he should accumulate enough credits to earn a degree in 2011. He said 18 credits from Butte did not transfer.

Green said it is difficult being away from his daughter, who watches the specially ordered telecasts of his games. Smith said her son has adjusted to Hawaii.

During the recruiting process, Smith said, UH head coach Greg McMackin promoted the Warriors' family atmosphere.

"Coach Mack said: 'We'll take good care of him. Don't worry,'" Smith recalled. "When Alex got there, he told me, 'They treat me like family. Everybody is so nice.'"

Green was a reserve during the 2009 season, his first at UH. He was named the No. 1 running back in spring training and had a solid training camp the past summer. But two weeks before the Sept. 2 opener against Southern California, Green suffered a concussion in a mo-ped accident. He recovered in time to play in that game.

In the Warriors' four-wide offense, the running back's primary role is backfield blocker. Green has had his opportunities on screen and shovel passes, and limited running plays.

The past weekend, the Warriors faced a defense in which New Mexico State doubled up on the slotbacks, and the cornerbacks pressed the wideouts, leaving a sole safety as insurance. Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich instructed the slotbacks to run out routes, drawing away the inside defenders. With the offensive linemen creating gaps with zone and trap blocks, Green had nothing but green in front once he got past the line of scrimmage.

"A.G. helps us so much with his blocking," quarterback Bryant Moniz said, "it was nice that we could help him."

Green said he first knew he was doing well statistically when he saw his running tab -- 240 yards, nine carries -- on the scoreboard. Later, in the huddle, the linemen said they would help him reach 300.

"They were telling me to keep it up," Green said.

Green also became the first 1,000-yard rusher in UH's version of the run-and-shoot offense, which was implemented in 1999.

"That's the 'run' part of the run-and-shoot," McMackin said.

Indeed, a balance has been found.






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