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From trials to triumph: Behind the story of former Tide safety Robby Green

Former Alabama DB Robby Green (No. 23) in Crimson Tide's 2009 game versus Louisiana State University: Photo via Green

Do tears count as a weak emotion?

This question would have drawn a resounding “Yes” back in the day, seeing how fathers taught their sons to show little to no feelings. Never smile too hard, never let your heart get too big, and never let them see you cry.

It was a message passed down from generations, but this is different.

He smiles nowadays, however, there was a point when all Robby Green could do was cry. For the former Alabama cornerback, sometimes it’s those that endure and conquer their own personal hell are truly the ones to teach the next generation and their peers how to handle life situations.

Facing Katrina/Building a competitive nature

As a child, Green did not have it easy. His father schooled him in the art of having a work ethic, but growing in New Orleans, La., the family came face-to-face with one of the worst natural disasters in history – Hurricane Katrina. Like most University of Alabama standouts from New Orleans, Green purposed in his heart that the tragedy wouldn’t deter him from giving back.

With his family’s guidance and assistance from head coach J.T. Curtis, Green attended school and played football for John Curtis Christian High School in River Ridge, La., from 2005-08. The school, much like Green, needed a spark after it sustained extensive damage from Katrina in 2005. Following a state championship in 2004 and much uncertainty after the storm, it was not considered possible for John Curtis to repeat champions – especially after losing 20-25 players.

In the hardship, Green and teammate Joe McKnight (deceased now) took on leadership roles at their positions. Knight’s playmaking abilities at running back and Green’s discipline on defense helped the Patriots win state titles in 2005 and 2006, while Green was a part of four championship teams from 2005-08.

To him, his demeanor was developed way before Alabama.

“In going through my situation, I was always training,” Green said. “I was probably anywhere from 160 to 170 pounds so I wasn’t the biggest guy or the fastest guy, yet I was a competitor.”

Along with re-establishing a city, Green’s fighter mentality drove him to earning a four-star rating in the 2008 recruiting cycle. Choosing Alabama over Florida, Louisiana State University and University of Southern California sounded like a match made in heaven; nevertheless, the Louisiana native would encounter some personal demons that tried to ruin his future vision.

Arrival to Alabama/Winning a national championship

“Any call from someone in Alabama is a good call.”- Robby Green

He made this statement to yours truly in our first conversation a couple of week ago. When he arrived at the Capstone in 2008 as a true freshman, Green would be part of a class that fans dubbed the “BuiltByBama” moniker after. Names such as Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Terrence Cody, Courtney Upshaw, Donta Hightower and Mark Barron flooded the campus with pride.

Former Alabama DB Robby Green shakes head coach Nick Saban’s hand at 2009 A-Day game: Photo via Robby Green

“It wasn’t about the national championships then,” Green said.

“I didn’t know about the All-Americans. The reason why I came to Alabama was because of Nick Saban and the family atmosphere. I had 35 other offers, but I felt at home in Tuscaloosa.”

He came because of Saban and in the Saban way of doing things, Green recorded six tackles through 10 games – mostly on special teams – in 2008. His star quickly rose in the following season, as he shared a defensive backfield with Barron, Kareem Jackson and Javier Arenas.

Ex-Tide DB Robby Green recording a tackle against Virginia Tech in 2009 season opener: Photo via Robby Green

Green played in all 14 games of an undefeated year in 2009, accounting for 33 total tackles (eight on team), six pass breakups (third on team) and an interception. It wasn’t about national championships at first, nonetheless, Green’s eyes lit up after holding a crystal ball at the end.

He was on the verge of having a stellar junior season. All signs were pointing to his dream of wanting to be “a first-round draft pick,” yet a mental lapse would redirect his career path.

Suspension and dismissal from Tide football

Experiencing the loss of a loved one, having unwanted dreams about the afterlife or going through a breakup/divorce is bad, but for Alabama football players, there’s something worse.

Visiting the office of head coach Nick Saban… (Cue all heart-wrenching music possible)

Even if he’s telling you how well you are doing, there is always a sense of uncontrollable fear for one who enters the office of the Crimson Tide’s head man. Coming off a BCS national championship and a good season, Green caught the fury entering his junior year in 2010. He would be suspended for a violation of team rules: a mistake that cost him his season and a potential starting role at safety, which was filled by Robert Lester (eight picks).

“I wasn’t hanging around the right people,” Green said. “I also didn’t take school seriously.”

Upon watching his team limp to a 10-3 season in 2010, Green found himself back in Saban’s office in the spring of 2011 for another violation of team rules. Despite how good he was and Alabama’s liability in the secondary at times, it was the end of the rope for Green in T-Town.

He regarded two men in high respect aside from his father — Robby Green Sr – including one who watched him empty all emotions in his office after hearing the news of his dismissal.

“Coach Burton Burns was the one who recruited me and I begged him for another chance,” Green said. “All I could do was cry. I wanted someone to pull a few string for me.”

Sadly, no string was pulled for him. Green would leave the sunny skies of Alabama and warmth of Bryant-Denny Stadium for the coldness of University of California at Pennsylvania – an NCAA Division II school.

In his final year of eligibility, Green simply wasn’t feeling it.

“The passion was gone at that point,” he said.

Before leaving the Tide, Green’s tears in conjunction with a statement from Burton Burns helped open his eyes to a new identity and a unique opportunity that he could take advantage of.

“As I cried, he looked at me said ‘Robby you have an opportunity that no one else has’,” Green stated on Burns. “I kept telling him how confused I was because I didn’t understand what he meant. At the time, football was all I knew.”

From the 64-year-old running backs coach, Green’s lesson was “turn your negative into a positive.”

It burned in his mind for a while, even during his one year at a D-2 program. A poor decision kept him from being a part of the Tide’s second national championship in the 2011 season, but divine intervention still had use for the Louisiana fighter at the end of the day.

Green’s return to UA/Beginning of DPT

In his featured verse off the song “Poetic Justice,” Grammy Award-winner rapper Drake dropped the phrase “Conversations save relations I can tell.” If talking to people can save relationships, then talking to God can repair a broken bridge. For Green, Nick Saban allowed him to return to the University of Alabama in the spring of 2011 – after being dismissed from the institution.

“I learned a lot from Coach Saban,” Green said. “I owe a lot to him. He didn’t have to let me come back and finish my degree. I am proud of my degree, but I really appreciate him.”

Fueled from the words of Burton Burns, Green founded Dynamic Performance Training shortly after ending his football career in 2013. According to its website, DPT’s vision is to provide guidance in not only becoming a great athlete, but also the confidence to persevere through any life obstacle that comes your way.

Green instills quality lessons to his pro clients and the youth.

“With my youth, I start practice with a bible verse,” he said. “I find a good bible verse for the day and then try to tell them my life story from it. For my older guys, it takes different things to get them engaged.”

Through outside eyes, athletes seem to have the best life. Everyone appears to be living the dream around them and the world is simply at their disposal, but that’s not always the case.

“No one knows what an athlete goes through unless you’re an athlete,” Green said.

“I can’t explain enough on how people will love you and put you on a pedestal, until you make a mistake and lose everything. I have so much passion for what I do because God gave me a second chance. I was the one who had his career cut short, I don’t want that for anyone else.”

Although his ultimate for DPT is to build a gym and continue giving back to his community, Green’s vision started from humble beginnings. He said the moment truly humbled him.

“I started training guys in my mother’s garage,” he said. “People laughed at me and even some family members didn’t understand, but it taught me that life is earned and not given.”

Training former/current Alabama players for NFL

Seeing how well he responded from earning his degree, Nick Saban has witnessed quite a few of his current and former players training with Green – including Cam Robinson, Tim Williams, Derrick Henry, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Tony Brown and Bradley Sylve. After tearing his Achilles before the Tide’s 2016 pro day, Sylve’s work with Green landed him a spot on the Buffalo Bills.

“What I tell these guys is that instead of waiting to the NFL Draft to start branding yourself, you need to market yourself now,” Green said. “Football is half the battle. You are a brand name.”

Dre Kirkpatrick, who will enter his sixth NFL season in Cincinnati this fall, enrolled at Alabama as a five-star cornerback in 2009. Kirkpatrick was a unrestricted free agent after the Bengals missed the playoffs in 2016, and it was uncertain on if he would return to the roster.

While it lost the majority of its defensive players from the 2012 NFL Draft class, Cincinnati was not letting go of Kirkpatrick. At the end of his training with Green, the Bengals extended the Gadsden (Ala.) native with a five-year contract worth $52.5 million. One may not care for Miley Cyrus, however, the words of her alter ego “Hannah Montana” are understanding to Green.

“Life is what you make of it,” he said. “It’s about determining what you are going to be remembered for and who matters most to you.”

A current Alabama standout that Green is training with is Tony Brown.

The senior and five-star defensive back is vying for the starting job at “star” in nickel and dime. He’s had some run ins with Saban’s doghouse via off-field issues, yet Brown is high on Green’s radar for next season.

“Expect big things from him,” Green said on Brown. “He’s a little brother to me. He’s humble now and he understands more. Missing the national championship in 2015 really woke him up.”

Robby Green Today

Now at 27, Green is at peace with himself. He’s married and has 5-year-old son, of which Green has already started immersing in the culture of Southeastern Conference football.

“He screaming Roll Tide right now,” Green laughed.

DPT is expanding and for the first time in a while, he appears to have things in balance.

“I have always been a winner,” Green said. “Even when my football career was cut short, God still allowed me to continue a connection with the game. I consider myself a life coach.”

Whether it’s a child laughing at one of his camps or a pro athlete getting a call from an NFL team, Green always reverts back to the tears in 2010 and the coach that gave him much needed inspiration.

“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “Just seeing these kids grow and succeed does my heart good. Knowing that someone after me can learn from my story is huge.”

Green and his family will be at Alabama’s spring game on Saturday.

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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