Rookie Greene shines in the playoffs

I remember when Shonn Greene was an afterthought, a meaningless reacquisition to an Iowa roster that would supposedly use him as nothing other than a special teams kamikaze.

It was February 2008, and Greene was considered more of an expert at moving furniture than he was at running over defensive backs. After spending a year at Kirkwood Community College to repair his grades, he rejoined the Hawkeyes as an unlikely heir to Albert Young and Damian Sims’ perch in the backfield.

To predict Greene’s stratospheric rise to become the nation’s best running back in 2009 would have been laughable, if not utterly insane, before the 2008 season.

But somehow, it happened.

The Wisconsin game — a 217-yard, four-touchdown performance during which Greene provoked the NFP’s own Badger graduate, Ray Gustini, to toss heavy objects at his plasma — happened.

The final three games of the season — in which the Sicklerville, N.J., native combined to rush for 476 yards on 81 carries for seven touchdowns — happened.

The Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, happened. (So, too, did his Heisman invitation getting lost in the mail, something that would have been endlessly discussed had Greene gone to school in a state other than Iowa.)

After he declared for the draft early, the New York Jets traded up to snag Greene in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

I thought this might have been the beginning of the end of Greene’s remarkable story. After all, he turned 24 before the start of this season, and he was coming into a league where his 30-carry, “let’s-wear-you-down-and-dominate-the-fourth-quarter” games seemed to be a dying breed.

Through six weeks, I looked like a prophet. Greene had only carried the ball seven times for an underwhelming 30 yards. He became an afterthought again. This time, it was with an offense that had little use for him because of veterans Thomas Jones and Leon Washington.

To predict Greene’s rise to become the hottest name of the 2010 playoffs would have been laughable, if not utterly insane, before Week 7.

But somehow, it happened (again).

The Oct. 25 game against the Raiders — in which Greene jaunted for 144 yards and two touchdowns on only 19 carries, causing all Jets fans forget about Washington’s ugly season-ending injury earlier in the game — happened.

The wild card playoff game at Cincinnati — where he turned in another 135 yards, making one of the league’s best run-stopping teams look like Purdue’s Swiss-cheese defense — happened.

And, yes, last weekend’s game against the Chargers — in which Greene proved his Tiger Woods-esque “I’m-going-to-wear-you-out” motto did, after all, have a place in the NFL — happened. (Of Greene’s 128 rushing yards against San Diego, 98 came in the game’s final quarter.)

At this point, nothing about Greene would surprise me. A 200-yard outburst against Indy’s 24th-ranked rush defense? I’d believe it. A Super Bowl-winning 55-yard jaunt against Gregg Williams’ scheme? Seems plausible to me. A Hall-of-Fame career during which Greene pulls a Brett Favre and plays until he’s 50? Hell, why not?

This is good news for all of us watching at home, because I can tell you from firsthand experience there’s no more humble athlete than Greene (don’t let his imitation of LT’s “finger roll” fool you). Even during his record-breaking 2008 season in Iowa City, Greene showed an invigorating knack for deflecting any and all questions about his on-field accomplishments.

Simply, Greene is someone every football fan should cheer for — if only to see what happens next.

Scott Miller is a junior at the University of Iowa and a contributor to the National Football Post. Follow him on Twitter: @stmillr.

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