Cream of the crop: AJ Green liked coaches’ approach

By: Richard Davenport Richard Davenport's Twitter account
Published: Sunday, July 25, 2021
AJ Green, a freshman running back at Arkansas who played high school football at Union in Tulsa, runs the football during a game against Broken Arrow on Nov. 19, 2020.
( Tulsa World )
AJ Green, a freshman running back at Arkansas who played high school football at Union in Tulsa, runs the football during a game against Broken Arrow on Nov. 19, 2020.

The 10th in a series featuring newcomers to the University of Arkansas football team

Arkansas checked all the boxes for freshman running back AJ Green during a recruiting process that didn’t allow any visits to college campuses part of his junior and senior years because of covid-19.

“It was kind of hard but I could tell who really wanted me and who just really threw an offer to me to try and get me to their school,” Green said. “Arkansas was definitely the main school that called me every day and seeing how I was doing. It wasn’t all about football they were asking me about life.”

Green, 5-11, 194 pounds, of Tulsa Union, said Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Louisville and LSU were the schools that stayed in touch and made a connection with him.

His relationships with Coach Sam Pittman and running backs coach Jimmy Smith helped separate the Razorbacks from others.

The Green file


CLASS Freshman

POSITION Running back

HEIGHT/WEIGHT 5-11, 194 pounds

AGE 18 (Born Oct. 23, 2002)



NOTEWORTHY Recruited by running backs coach Jimmy Smith. … One of two Razorbacks from Tulsa Union, with center Ricky Stromberg the other. … He’s the highest-rated prospect in Arkansas’ 2021 class. … Chose Arkansas over Baylor, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, South Carolina and Texas.

“That was one of the main factors why I chose to come here at the University of Arkansas,” Green said.

Green was one of four ESPN 4-star prospects the Razorbacks inked for the 2021 class, and he was the highest-rated recruit of the four. He was also the No. 18 athlete and the No. 186 overall prospect in the nation.

Some schools talked up the amount of gear he would receive at their school, but not Arkansas.

“They never really talked about the stuff I would get,” Green said. “They would ask me questions about how my life at home and how school was going and even how track was going. A lot of other schools would call me to talk about football and that was it.”

Green avoided going to a school based off a logo and instead looked for coaches who were genuine.

“Some coaches you can tell like if they’re just playing a role or something just to get you to their school,” Green said. “Sweet talk you or something.”

Arkansas was one of the few schools to build a relationship with his family.

“They were calling my pops … all the time,” Green said. “You could definitely see who wanted me. Just the way they talked to me and how much effort they tried to talk to me and my family. Not just me.”

Near the end of his junior year, Green said he was tired of talking to schools that didn’t fit his criteria.

“I was getting calls every day from different coaches like Utah and Alabama,” he said. “Coaches that never even offered me but would try and talk to me all the time. Nebraska talked to me a lot, but it was more about football and I was like I’m really not building a connection there and all the other schools.”

Pittman stressed Arkansas’ blue-collar work ethic during the recruiting process. Green said that matches what he’s experienced since arriving in Fayetteville for the first semester of summer school.

“Even though they weren’t one of the winningest teams, they’re still over here working harder than a lot of teams,” Green said. “I think we work harder than a lot of teams in the nation. I see it every morning. It’s just real.

“Everything he told me was real. So coach Pitt was pretty real with me. I knew I was coming here to work, and I was coming here to help something bigger than myself.”

Because of the academic and athletic demands, time management is usually the biggest adjustment for incoming freshman. Green said staying on top of his schoolwork is one of several adjustments he’s encountered.

“Also making sure I’m getting enough sleep to wake up in the morning and go to morning workouts,” Green said. “Make sure I’m eating right. Make sure I’m eating the right amount of vegetables and fruits. The right amount of protein. Staying hydrated and even getting enough electrolytes in me.”

He rushed 167 times for 1,302 yards, 14 touchdowns, and had 12 catches for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns as a senior. As a junior, he rushed 117 carries for 939 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Green recorded a wind-aided 10.38 seconds in the 100-meter dash at the Class 6A state meet as a freshman. According to MileSplit, Green recorded a wind-aided 10.45 seconds in the 100 and a 21.76 in the 200 as a senior.

During an appearance at a local Fayetteville restaurant on the first day of the early signing period Dec. 16, Pittman said Green has breakaway speed.

“If he breaks, he’s gone,” Pittman said. “That’s just how it is. I love the kid. Just a wonderful kid.”

Green expects to contribute as a freshman.

“My goal is just to get on the field and be able to help this team in whatever way I can,” Green said. “It doesn’t matter, I just want to help this team. I’m pretty sure I will be able to see the field this year and make a difference.”

He carried a 3.8 grad- point average in high school and is looking to major in sports management.

Green was one of six prospects the Razorbacks signed from Oklahoma for the 2021 class. With Pittman and defensive coordinator Barry Odom being from the Sooner State, and defensive line coach Jermial Ashley having coached at Tulsa for five seasons, Arkansas is expected to recruit the state hard.

Green plans to do his part in helping Arkansas recruit his home state.

“I’m definitely trying to give my input on those Oklahoma kids and just let them know they’re welcome to come here,” Green said. “They can definitely ball out in the SEC.”


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