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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Interview with Cornelius Green for Michigan week 2018

I caught up with Buckeye legend and trailblazer Cornelius Green as we approach the 2018 edition of the Game. He shared his thoughts on the rivalry, his special connection with current Buckeye Dwayne Haskins, his thoughts on this year's team, and much more. 

Cornelius Green courtesy of OSU archives

Q: Initially out of high school you wanted to go to Michigan State, talk about what happened there?

A: To start off, I used to go to Flint, Michigan every summer. I felt that when Michigan State was recruiting me that that would be my calling. I thought it was a perfect match for me to go there. But while I was attending my recruiting visit, the guy that was recruiting me was really upset at Michigan State and advised me not to go there. Also, he took me to a little party that Friday night and left me. I had to find my way back to the hotel, so I just crossed Michigan State off after that.

Q: Why ultimately did you choose Ohio State?

A: My main reason for choosing Ohio State was Rudy Hubbard who recruited me, I felt really comfortable with him. He was the running backs coach. I think my mom kind of made up my decision because when I visited Ohio State, Coach Hayes’ whole conversation was about what I wanted to be, and about my academics. I spent probably about 75% of my time over at the business colleges and looking at different colleges that I wanted to pursue my career in. So, when I got home, I told my mom all they were talking about was school mom. They weren’t talking about how good I’d be in football. Obviously, she said, well you’re going to Ohio State because it looks like they are putting more emphasis on school than sports.

Q: Where did most kids from your hometown and the DC area go to school?

A: Most of the kids weren’t getting big division one scholarships. The majority of them were not getting those big looks. I was one of the first to kind of get that big look. The majority of the black schools were looking at a lot of the kids in our area. Once I went to Ohio State and became successful there, then D.C started become a hotbed for other big conferences to come in and get a lot of kids out of the area.

Q: Did you get any flak from your friends or any other people in your hometown, or were they happy for you?

A: It was amazing how so many people were happy, but thought I might have made the wrong decision and tried to down my skill level, thinking I wasn’t good enough to go to Ohio State. A lot of folks were wondering why did I choose to go to Ohio State, because I played football here in D.C. They were saying football started in Ohio, and this and that. I had to really believe in myself because a lot of friends and a lot of mentors and a lot of other folks thought I made the wrong decision going to Ohio State.

Q: Did you have any homesickness?

A: I was very homesick. I got an ulcer. I think being homesick, Woody Hayes, being at a new college all combined was just a little too much for me. Then once I got there, I started getting letters from the Ku Klux Klan and all kinds of other racial groups. Then I started getting a lot of nasty phone calls and death threats. It all kind of adds up and that’s probably why I think I got an ulcer.

Q: In regards to that off the field adversity, how did you deal with it?

A: It was really tough, but I thought that if I didn’t make note of it in terms of the press, letting it get out. Of course, Coach Hayes knew, but I didn’t let it get out. I kind of kept it to myself. Archie would answer the phone, and people thought he was me, and so he knew what I was experiencing. It was tough. Probably one of the toughest times of my life.

Q: This year the Buckeyes have faced a lot of off the field distractions. How did Woody handle the noise outside the program to keep you guys focused on your games?

A: Well Woody always kept us really focused. We were a very close-knit group. A lot of outside stuff didn’t affect us, because Woody was just a great leader. Of course, you know he followed General Patton so we were being raised like we were in the Army. He kept all stuff in house for sure.

Q: Nowadays kids have social media. If they are paying attention to it, it could probably really bring them down. It can get really nasty.

A: Thank goodness, there wasn’t any social media around when we were coming up. My goodness. Because as popular as Archie and I were, with his two Heisman’s, that probably would have gotten very intense with social media.

Q: You talked about academics, so maybe just expand on how Woody emphasized academics and the importance of education. Is that something he instilled right away?

A: That was his whole selling piece at Ohio State. Especially African-Americans, giving them the opportunity to get a great free education and to graduate. That’s what Woody was all about. And also, Woody was about making sure that we paid it forward. As freshmen, twice a week we had to go over to the Children’s hospital and visit sick kids.

Q: I was just going to ask you that. What kind of activities did Woody have you do as far as community service?

A: We did a lot of community service. Especially around Thanksgiving, I remember Archie and I used to volunteer. We used to go out and give away like 100 thanksgiving baskets to needy families. I was a big part of the Columbus community in terms of going to hospitals and paying it forward any way I could, going out to student community groups and things like that. Also, I was in the fellowship of Christian Athletes, so I spoke at a lot of churches as well.

Q: How would you compare the offense that you played under Woody to Ohio State’s offense the last few years?

A: Well, they are totally different offenses where we had a fullback and a wingback in our offense. Whereas, now there is no fullback and only one back in the backfield. I wish I could have played in this type of offense. I think my skills would have been displayed more than they were running in a Woody Hayes type of offense. I think I could have had a Heisman running this offense for sure.

Q: Would you prefer the read option as opposed to Pro-style?

A: No doubt about it. man, If I could have played in this type of offense where I had three or four wide receivers and I could run off the option and all I had to do was read that tackle, I would have had a field day.

Q: Maybe just compare the physicality of the game of football when you played versus today's teams?

A: I think the game is much softer. The game is obviously softer than when we played. Even from a practice standpoint, Woody never put a yellow jersey on me. They are going to protect the quarterbacks now. Of course, with the concussion scare and things like that I think the game is good being on the safer side. Of course, the players are much bigger than when we played. It’s a really good time to play football right now though.

Q: How did you get your nickname "Flamboyant?"

A: Leonardo Shapiro. He was a beat reporter for the Washington Post and ended up being the Washington Post editor in sports. He was well known. I had on some tassels on my pants and some white shoes and all the other guys out there had on black shoes and he nicknamed me "Flamboyant." He said "Flamboyant Green" directs Dunbar past whatever school we played. The next day all my teammates all called me "Flamboyant" and "Flam" so it just stuck.  But he named me that. I can’t take credit for giving myself that name, I have to give it to him.

Q: Now I wanted to talk about your relationship with Dwayne Haskins if that’s okay. Maybe just talk about your relationship as far as you both being from the DC area and carrying on that lineage of African-American Quarterbacks at Ohio State.

A:  I’m very proud of that. You know, there hadn’t been another African-American quarterback wearing number 7 as far as I knew of for 45 years; And how amazing 45 years later that an African-American came out of the Washington D.C area. His dad and I are very good friends and of course I’m always sending him some nice spiritual quotes, and he sends me some as well in terms of praying for his son to make sure he stays healthy, which I always do. But I’m just really proud of Dwayne and his accomplishments and couldn’t be prouder of a kid like him who is a spiritual kid, and we both have a spiritual number in number 7.

Q: Talk about how you got the number 7.

A: It was really wild for me to wear number 7, because when I first got to Ohio State, they gave me number 25. If you add 2 and 5, you get 7. They gave me the number 7 maybe the 4th or 5th week of the season. It was amazing. One of my teammates, Steve Luke's mom told me the night before. She said, "Cornelius I had a dream that you were wearing number 7" and I just thought she had lost it or something. The next day I went into my locker and lo and behold number 7 was in my locker.

Q: I thought Dwayne showed a lot of heart against Maryland in front of his family and his friends. Since you were at the game what were your thoughts on his play and getting to see him beat the season records for touchdowns and yardage?

A: It was a homecoming for him. I wish I would have been able to come back home and play in the D.C area where all my friends and family could come out and see me. So that was a blessing for him to come back home and also it was a blessing because he had initially signed to go to Maryland, before switching to Ohio State. So, I think he had a lot on the line in terms of wanting to impress people in this area that came out to see him. I was just more impressed with him using his legs in this game because there had been several games where he never ran the ball. It was great timing for him to use his legs in this game and to throw so many touchdowns in addition to running.  That puts another thing on Michigan’s mind.

Q: Do you think Ohio State should bring in Tate Martell at all?

A: I think you do because it adds another something that Michigan’s defense is going to have to get ready for. When Tate Martell comes in, all he has been doing is running but Urban might get pass happy and make that kid pass and catch Michigan off guard a little bit.

Q: What advice would you give to Dwayne as he approaches the Game and the rest of the season?

A: This is a game where you really make a name for yourself. This is a game where everyone is going to remember what you did. You can throw that 10-1 record out the window. I think the reason I’m so popular and well known is because I never lost to Michigan. I’m 3-0-1 against them. Back then, when we played, if you didn’t win the Big Ten championship or title, you didn’t go to a bowl game, so all the marbles were on the table when we played. It meant everything to me.

Q: Do you believe when OSU plays Michigan that the records truly do go out the window?

A: There is no doubt about it. You can see even when Michigan didn’t have some good teams and good records, they always played Ohio State really tough though. You can throw the records out the window. This game is going to go down as a street fight.

Q: Do you have any concerns going into the game? Even though Ohio State is 10-1 many people think OSU has underachieved. Is it a matter of flipping a switch?

A: I think nobody thought that Ohio State’s defense would play as well as they did when they played Michigan State. I think the defense is going to show up like they did against Michigan State. That might be surprising to some, but they played great after the Purdue collapse. They came back and played good defense. I think Maryland had a very tricky offense. When you come and play Michigan, they are not tricky at all. You know pretty much what they are going to do. I can’t see them putting wide receivers out there throwing deep passes. I think the defense has a better shot playing against Michigan versus playing Maryland, where they split a lot of guys out at wide receiver.

Q: What advice would you have for the current team going into the Game with them being a 4-point underdog?

A: Obviously, never look at that as far as points. I think we are ready. I definitely think these guys should have some confidence because Michigan hasn’t beaten us since Harbaugh has been there. So obviously we have an edge and also, we have an edge being at home. I don’t think Michigan has seen a passer like Dwayne Haskins and their defensive backs aren’t that good to me. I feel really good, especially with our passing game.

Q: Did you notice a difference in the emotion and the intensity during the Michigan game versus the regular season games?

A: There is no doubt about it. Because we practiced for Michigan the first day of practice, which was Aug. 20th. I remember we practiced for Michigan and we were playing Indiana. We practiced for Michigan Monday and Tuesday, and we practiced for Indiana Wednesday Thursday and Friday and we weren’t playing Michigan for another 5 weeks.

Q: Do you root for Michigan to do well during the season or are you just kind of neutral on that?

A: I’m a little neutral with Michigan but I also know that when Michigan does well and we do well it’s great for the conference and great for the rivalry. It’s not like I’m always wishing for them to do bad. It’s kind of been in our favor here lately, so no matter how good they do, we always catch them at the end of the season, so it’s fine with me.

Q: Do you have a score prediction for this year’s game?

A: I think we might win 31-17. Put one field goal in there for us.

Q: Lastly, seeing the lineage of African-American quarterbacks and now as you look back, how do you feel about the legacy you started and left at OSU?

A: For what all I had to go through in being the first, I’m so proud of Ohio State for selecting a person who could play the position, and not looking at it in terms of color at all. I feel really good about it. A lot of folks had kind of forgotten that I started it off, because you see so many African-American quarterbacks at Ohio State now you kind of take it for granted. And you kind of forget who started it, and what I had to go through to start it. If I’m the Mount Everest of African-American quarterbacks at Ohio State, I’m really proud to be the first.

Nicholas Jackson

Copyright 2018 Nicholas Jackson - All rights reserved.

Nick is a 1997 graduate of Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio where he received his B.S in Biological Sciences. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy at Andrews University in Dayton, Ohio and then his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. He has been published in the Newark Advocate, The Granville Sentinel, and the St. Louis Metro Voice; and professionally in the Journal of Acute Care Physical Therapy. Nick has also been a guest host on 88.9 WLRY and 880AM WRFD

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1 comment:

  1. Corny is a fine man and it shows here. Unsaid is the year Archie got his second Heisman, Green was team MVP and Big Ten MVP. The Heisman has always been an award based on talent, performance along with big doses of politics and inertia. Taking nothing away from the great Archie Griffin, how odd it was that his roommate and the guy who handed him the ball, was more deserving of this recognition in the 1975 season. And what Corny says about the read-option is absolutely correct. Players weren't as fast back then and Corny would have eaten them alive -- because he was as quick as is anyone playing today. Heck he ate them up anyhow -- despite running an offense not organized to take full advantage of his running skills. Cheers my friend! Glad to see you getting the recognition you so deserve. And Go Buckeyes!