Former Panther part of first CFP championship


Jeff Greene (89) jumps over the line-of-scrimmage in an attempt to block a kick during a week two match-up against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

As former Panther wide receiver Jeff Greene stood in the locker room with his teammates after the Ohio State Buckeyes routed the Oregon Ducks 42-7 in the inaugural College Football Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington before a crowd of 85,689 fans, he had to want to pinch himself, if only for a second. Here he was, part of the college football elite, with the T-shirt and ball cap to prove it. But two years ago, he had to be wondering if his Division I playing days were over.

Recruited as a senior by Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, Greene signed with the Jackets, and in his two years with the team, he caught 18 passes for 284 yards. He showed great potential, but that wasn’t all. Sometimes he showed attitude, and according to reports in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and among his fan base in and around his home town of Peachtree City, Greene left the Jackets at the request of his coaches toward the end of the 2012 season.

“He wasn’t happy at Tech,” Panthers head football coach Chad Phillips said. “He had some conflict with the coaches and it was difficult academically for him to stay at the school. If he had stayed at Tech, he would’ve been a part of the offense this year.”

He had unbelievable talent and everything that a stereotypical wide receiver has. When he knew he wanted to play college ball, he had to grow up and work a little harder.”

— coach Chad Walker

Even before Greene was recruited by Tech, Greene needed to develop a better work ethic and become more of a team leader, according to Panthers wide receivers coach Chad Walker. “He had unbelievable talent and everything that a stereotypical wide receiver has,” said Walker. “When he knew he wanted to play college ball, he had to grow up and work a little harder.”

Greene earned a scholarship along with teammate Zach Laskey, both of whom were a part of the SMHS 2010 state runner-up team that went 14-0 before losing to Chattahoochee in the Georgia Dome during their senior season, to play at Georgia Tech. Another player on that 2010 team was offensive lineman Alex Barr, who still has one year of eligibility remaining at North Carolina State. Other teammates like kicker Ryan Nowicki, Ufomba Kamalu, and Matt Hubbard also made the squads at Georgia Southern, Miami, and Georgia State.

After leaving Tech, Greene knew he still wanted to play football, so he started thinking about where to transfer. “I had a lot of Division II schools I could’ve gone to and started right away,” Greene said. “Two weeks before my decision, coach Meyer called me and said he wanted me to play for the Buckeyes.” So he packed his bags and took his talents north to Ohio.

Because of NCAA regulations, Greene sat out his first year at Ohio State. During that season, the Buckeyes went 12-0 in the regular season before losing to Michigan State in the Big 10 championship game. They also lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl to finish 12-2.

His main job this year was to … play as the opponent’s top receiver and run the routes they would usually run.””

— coach Chad Phillips

In Greene’s first year of eligibility, he was a walk-on, but during spring practice, Meyer decided to give him a scholarship. Greene not only played on the special teams unit but played an important role during practices, according to Phillips. “His main job this year was to be the top receiver on the scout team,” he said. “He would play as the opponent’s top receiver and run the routes they would usually run.”

Before the season began, the Buckeyes lost their starting quarterback Braxton Miller to a right shoulder injury that he re-aggravated during a summer practice, according to Greene. Backup J.T. Barrett took over for Miller and started for most of the season, taking the Buckeyes to a 10-1 record in the Big 1o, but tore his ACL on the final regular season game.

Meyer looked to the bench and put in third-stringer Cardale Jones. In his first three starts, Jones won the Big 10 championship game, helped defeat Nick Saban’s top-ranked Alabama team, and won the national championship. The three wins also came against the top three nominees for the Heisman Trophy.

While all three quarterbacks play a different style, Greene said that all three can start for most college football teams in the country.

“All three of those quarterbacks are good,” Greene said. “Miller was definitely the leader. He had a lot more experience than the others. Barrett is probably the more accurate one, and Jones can sit on one knee in the end zone and throw it 60 yards.”

The coaches speak very highly of him…I expect him to play next year, maybe even start.”

— Phillips

Greene becomes the first Starr’s Mill graduate to win a college football national championship title, which is good news for Phillips because “having a national champion alumnus really helps our program out,” he said. “We can now tell parents and players that we have that, and it makes the players excited to play for us.”

While Greene didn’t get to start this season at wide receiver, the coaches at Ohio State have indicated that Greene will get serious playing time in the fall, according to Phillips, who talks with the Buckeyes coaches.

“The coaches speak very highly of him up there,” Phillips said. “I expect him to play next year, maybe even start.”