Every once in a while, the NFL Draft unearths a relatively hidden gem.
Most of the time, these gems come in the form of players from small colleges who are known mainly by the local populace and media.
Given an opportunity at the pro level, these small school athletes take the NFL by storm and don’t look back.
That was the case with Darrell Green.
Darrell Green pic.twitter.com/9zYdKVQws5
— ᑭᖇO ᖴOOTᗷᗩᒪᒪ ᒍOᑌᖇᑎᗩᒪ 🏈 (@NFL_Journal) March 23, 2022
Coming out of Texas A&I (renamed Texas A&M-Kingsville in 1993), Green first wowed scouts with his speed then won over fans with his play on the field.
In 20 years with the Washington Redskins, Green was a consistent presence for the franchise and was instrumental in helping Washington get to three Super Bowls.
Additionally, his leadership would garner respect from teammates and opponents alike and eventually lead to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This is the story of Darrell Green.
Darrell Ray Green was born on February 15, 1960 in Houston, Texas.
His athleticism was evident at a young age and Green loved to show off his speed and quickness.
As an athlete at Jesse H. Jones High School in Houston, Texas, Green excelled on the track where he would become an All-State selection.
Darrell Green (Washington Redskins) and I @ Jesse H. Jones Alumni Reunion 2013 pic.twitter.com/hA4enhMDhD
— Amanda Ruben (@HallRuben) August 13, 2013
He wasn’t as gifted on the gridiron, at first, and played on the school’s junior varsity team as a junior.
Green then made the varsity football team as a senior where he would be named as an All-City selection.
Even with his speed and obvious skills as a cornerback, Green didn’t get a lot of attention from major colleges.
Instead, he took an opportunity to run track and play football at Division II Texas A&I in Kingsville, Texas.
Green Excels for the Javelinas
It didn’t take long for Green to put Texas A&I on the map.
He was a standout corner for the Javelinas football team, but Green’s track skills brought him national attention.
In 1981, he ran the 100-yard dash in 10.08 seconds during a track meet in San Angelo, Texas.
The time still stands as a conference record.
Green was named the captain for the 1982 A&I football team and had 56 tackles, four interceptions, and two punt returns for touchdowns.
That brought him a First-team All-American designation and MVP honors for the Lone Star Conference.
Former Texas A&I Javelinas Darrell Green (Redskins), John Randle (Vikings), and the late Gene Upshaw (Raiders) have been selected to the NFL 100 All-Time Team! Congratulations! #tamuk @JavelinaFB @JavelinaNation #NFL100 @NFL pic.twitter.com/M230jz4JDO
— Jim Danner RGV Weather (@JimDannerWX) December 22, 2019
The following spring saw Green run 5.76 seconds in the 50-yard dash, and 20.50 seconds in the 200 meters.
His track performances in 1982 and 1983 led to Most Valuable Track Performer honors during the Lone Star Conference Championships both years.
Although Green was a solid corner for the Javelinas, most NFL teams were scared off by his small 5’9,” 180-pound frame.
However, the threat he posed as a punt returner on special teams was impossible to ignore.
First Round Pick
Green’s speed and coverage ability were enough for the Washington Redskins to select him with the 28th overall pick in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft.
“With the 28th pick in the 1983 draft… the Washington Redskins select cornerback Darrell Green of Texas A&I University”
Happy Draft Day! @Redskins pic.twitter.com/QG4dviQ94M
— Darrell Green (@darrellgreen28) April 23, 2020
Washington could afford to take a risk on a player like Green who played primarily against small school opponents.
In 1982, the franchise won Super Bowl XVII over the Miami Dolphins and the team was poised to repeat in ‘83.
Sure enough, Green proved the team made a wise choice during a 1983 preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Touching the ball for the first time as a pro, Green took an Atlanta punt and returned it 61 yards for a touchdown.
Then, in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, Green pursued on a running play to Cowboys all-world back Tony Dorsett.
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) July 12, 2019
Although Dorsett was on the opposite side of the field, Green tracked him down and eventually caught him from behind just yards from the end zone.
“My classmates and I talked about that in college just months before, thinking who could catch him (Dorsett),” said Green years later.
Green would start for the Redskins in all 16 games that year and helped the team get back to the postseason.
He would finish fourth on the team with 109 total tackles and added two interceptions.
Green then finished second for the NFL Rookie of the Year Award.
Unfortunately, Washington came up short of a championship repeat as they were soundly defeated by the Oakland Raiders 38-9 in Super Bowl XVIII.
Green Helps Washington to another Super Bowl Win
For the next several years, Green was the very model of consistency.
He started every game except one from 1983-1986 and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1984 and 1986 on the strength of his five interceptions both seasons.
During training camp in 1986, Green was rumored to have run a 4.09 40 yard dash time.
Although his teammates said the time was accurate, it was not confirmed.
If it had been confirmed, the time would be the fastest in NFL history.
Later in the year, the Redskins took a 12-4 record into the playoffs where they advanced to the NFC title game before losing to the New York Giants.
In 1987, Green had a career-high three interceptions in one game versus Detroit.
His three picks were in addition to the one fumble recovery for a score he had during the season along with 48 total tackles.
His play led to a third Pro Bowl nod.
Washington went 11-4 during the strike-shortened season and beat Chicago and Minnesota in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
During the game against the Bears, Green returned a punt 52 yards for a touchdown. The score would prove to be the winning points for Washington.
— Damon Del Rosario (@DamoKnowsSports) March 23, 2022
For the third time in the 1980s, the Redskins made it to the Super Bowl.
This time, the team squared off against the Denver Broncos and, by the end of the first quarter, it looked like Washington was overmatched as they trailed 10-0.
However, Washington quickly got back on track and scored 42 unanswered points for a 42-10 victory.
The Super Bowl XXII win was the organization’s second title in six years.
Green Gets Another Ring
After their big win, Washington experienced a few down years in 1988 and 1989 when they failed to make the playoffs.
Green would post three interceptions and 92 total tackles during that time.
In 1990, the Redskins returned to the postseason but lost to San Francisco in the Divisional round.
Green had four picks including one returned for a touchdown and 78 total tackles and was voted to his fourth Pro Bowl.
— Darcy Armstrong (@DArm91) March 23, 2022
He would return to the Pro Bowl in 1991 after grabbing five interceptions and making 79 total tackles.
Washington only lost two games that season and blew out Atlanta and Detroit in the first two games of the playoffs.
For the fourth time in the past decade, the team was back in the title game to play in Super Bowl XXVI against the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills never stood a chance and Green had his second championship ring after the Redskins 37-24 victory.
Green Thrives During the Redskins’ Lean Years
A forearm injury caused Green to miss several weeks in 1992 as Washington returned to the postseason after a 9-7 record.
The team was eliminated after losing to San Francisco in the Divisional round.
After 1992, Washington suffered a long, dry spell during the Richie Petitbon and Norv Turner years.
Six straight years passed without a trip to the playoffs.
However, Green was solid at his cornerback position and did not miss a game during that period.
Darrell Green (former Washington Redskins) CB 1983-2002 pic.twitter.com/AzUMWFxdZi
— American Football 画像 (@AFpicture_japan) December 31, 2013
In 1996, he was honored as the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year for his charity work with the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation.
His foundation was established to help keep kids off the street and provide disadvantaged youth with tools to succeed academically, physically, and spiritually.
From 1993 to 1998, Green had 17 interceptions including four returned for scores. He also averaged between 50-60 tackles each year.
Despite his advancing age, Green was voted to two more Pro Bowls in 1996 and 1997.
In 1999, Washington returned to the playoffs at long last with a 10-6 record.
During a game against Arizona that year, Green intercepted Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer for his 50th career interception.
He would finish the season with three total picks and 56 combined tackles.
After a win against Detroit in the Wild Card round, Tampa Bay tripped up Washington 14-13 in the Divisional round.
In a testament to his physical and mental preparation, let alone his outstanding ability as an athlete, Green continued to play for another three years.
Although he did not start every game, Green still played well into his early 40s.
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) March 23, 2022
Former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin commented that Green was the standard by which every NFL pass-catcher measured themselves.
“If you could have a great game against Darrell Green, it meant you were there. He gets the job done. He almost makes you mad because he keeps getting the job done and getting the job done and does not say anything,” said Irvin.
In 2001, Green had one interception for the year which marked the 19th consecutive year he had at least one pick.
After the 2002 season, Green retired.
His last game as a player was a victory against Dallas in front of the Washington fans.
At the time, Green and former LA and St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Jackie Slater were the only two NFL players who spent their entire 20-year careers with the same team.
Former Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson has since broken that record after spending 21 seasons in the Motor City.
In his career, Green was a two-time Super Bowl winner, four-time First-team All-Pro, seven-time Pro Bowler, a member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team and 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
He has also been named as one of the Redskins 80 greatest players in history and is a member of the organization’s Ring of Fame.
Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green played his entire career with the Washington Redskins [1983 – 2002] and won 2 Super Bowl championships with them. He is considered one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history and also one of the fastest players ever. #DarrellGreen #football pic.twitter.com/H3LnnTniGr
— The Thrill of Victory (@ThrillVictory) December 4, 2020
Green’s career included totals of 54 interceptions, six picks for a touchdown, 10 fumble recoveries including two returned for scores, and 51 punt returns for 611 yards.
He was also the winner of the NFL’s Fastest Man Competition four times.
Fitting for the NFL’s former fastest man, Green hasn’t stayed idle in retirement.
In 2006, he ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate as a member of the Virginia Republican Party.
Two years later, he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
His bio for the Hall reads, “I was born with a great measure of speed and talent…But I was also born with desire, the desire to go faster every year. I’ve set it as a personal goal and by preparing harder and setting my goals higher, I’ve achieved that.”
When he turned 50 years old in 2010, Green wanted to see if he still had wheels and was timed in the 40-yard dash.
Friends and family could only laugh in amazement when he turned in a time of 4.43 seconds.
In 2016, Green was hired as an associate athletics director and special assistant to the athletic director at George Mason University in Virginia.
— Alex Parker (@ParkerSports) August 22, 2016
Throughout his life, Green has been a role model for athletes and the public alike and he is still recognized today as an example of leadership to others.
“Darrell signified perseverance and competitiveness, and he was an all around great guy at the same time. We were able to watch him for 20 years, and as far as I’m concerned he never failed us. He was always a stalwart in the community and he always maintained a good heart,” said former Washington great Bobby Mitchell.