Ahman Green: At Home In Omaha, Remembering Seattle

Former Seattle Seahawks running back Ahman Green looks back on his NFL career from Omaha, Nebraska, where he is playing in the United Football League.

Ahman Green is at home in Omaha.

It is Tuesday afternoon somewhere in middle America and Green - the former University of Nebraska running back and all-time leading rusher in Green Bay Packers history - is grabbing some lunch and wondering where the time has gone since his days as a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks.

"I was at my daughter's fourth birthday party and my dad called me," said Green, when asked how he heard he'd been traded to Green Bay back in 2000 along with a 5th round pick in exchange for Fred Vinson and a 6th round selection.

"He said we'd just got a phone call from Seattle that I'd been traded to the Packers. At first I thought he was joking, but he was serious."

Green, then 22-years old, saw the somber situation as a blessing. He took the ball and ran with it. And even after Seattle selected him 76th in the third round in the 1998 NFL Draft, that passion - which Ahman openly calls "a chip on my shoulder" - hasn't changed even though the years have.

Today, Green is still taking the ball and running with it.

The 33-year old 4-time Pro Bowler is in the thick of training camp with the Omaha Nighthawks of the second-year United Football League, and just returned from a morning team meeting before heading to afternoon practice. A nightly follow-up team meeting was also on the schedule. Such is life in the UFL - an upstart six-team league that also boasts Jeff Garcia (Omaha) and Daunte Culpepper (Sacramento) among other former NFL stars. The UFL has become a competitive training ground of sorts for experienced gridiron hopefuls to make the jump to the NFL.

Or maybe even the jump back to the NFL, in Green's case.

"My career isn't over yet. I could still be there or with another team to add to the yardage I have," explained Green.

"It's a goal of mine, but it might not happen. I don't know that, so I'm just going to play football here in Omaha and just have fun. Either way I want to play. If I'm not playing in the NFL, that's no big deal. I'm playing in the UFL and trying to help this team win a championship."

Green thought he could help Seattle win too when he arrived in the league back in 1998. Part of him knew that he'd have his work cut out for him coming out of Nebraska. They thought he was like Lawrence Phillips. They thought he was just a product of an option offense, so when it came to playing for the Seahawks, Green continuously thought he had something to prove to everyone - maybe even to himself.

"When I came in to the league, I came in with a chip on my shoulder," Green began.

"I came in after LP (Lawrence Phillips), so the word of Nebraska running backs was not a good word. I had to let them know I was definitely different from LP. But there is one thing in common with LP: I was a heck of an athlete. I wanted to show I was in shape and fast and could do more than most Nebraska running backs could do. Guys doubted me then. They wondered if I could pick up the blitz and catch the ball, but even in a pitch and catch kind of offense and you're maybe working with a new quarterback the first year and you're learning about him - when he's going to pitch it or not. You have to know that. And if he throws a bad pitch, you still have to catch it. I don't think guys did their research. They just went by word of mouth."

In his two years with the Seahawks, Green backed up Ricky Watters and rushed for 6.0 yards per carry in 1998 and 4.6 in 1999. He mostly played on special teams before becoming Seattle's third-down back once Mike Holmgren arrived in Seattle from Green Bay.

While there has always been speculation that Holmgren clashed with Green, Ahman maintains his time as a back-up running back in Seattle "wasn't difficult".

"Playing behind a guy and biding my time and working hard, that didn't bother me at all. It gave me the opportunity to learn - to learn the offense, what not to do and what it was to be a pro athlete. That's how I got better. That year helped me. I wasn't worried about not playing. I could have been a first round pick and still never have seen the field until my third year."

Instead, by Green's third year he was suiting up for Green Bay, where he helped Brett Favre make the Packers a contender for over the next decade. After rushing for 329 yards with Seattle, Green rushed for 8,322 yards later during his time with the Packers and in 2003, he became only the second back in NFL history to produce two touchdown runs of 90 yards or more while breaking Jim Taylor's franchise record for rushing yards in a season.

After three seasons with the Houston Texans, Green returned to Green Bay and finished his career with the Packers in 2009.

But is there still a future in the NFL for Green?

Last year at this time, Green - who at 225 pounds is a little heavier than his NFL playing days - worked out with a trainer in Chicago on agility drills and also in Green Bay, where he still has a home. When he heard Omaha was forming a UFL team, he jumped at the chance to play.

"It was a no-brainer. I'm still prepared. I want them to know I'm ready. Even when I was at Houston and Green Bay, I was on a one-a-day schedule. I was just as fresh then," explained Green.

On September 24, the Omaha Nighthawks open their 10-week 2010 season by hosting Hartford at Rosenblatt Stadium. The team recently signed running back Maurice Clarett - whom Green is helping mentor - and former Seattle Seahawk Mike Hass. But Green will be the featured back on the veteran team. 

That's one role Green wasn't able to secure during his brief time in Seattle.

Now, Ahman is at home in Omaha.

He hasn't forgotten where he's come from and where he wants to go. That goes for the UFL. That goes for the NFL. And that even goes for his time back in the day with the Seahawks.

"It was fun in Seattle. It was a learning experience," said Green.

"It doesn't seem that long ago but time goes by fast."

 

For more from Wendell Maxey, visit Beyond The Beat.

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