Seth Green got ready for the shotgun snap, standing beside the blue star at midfield of the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. After transferring into one of the nation’s premier high school programs, the 6-4, 215-pound Woodbury native was right in the thick of the Texas Class 6A playoffs.
The Allen Eagles owned a 54-game winning streak and were ranked second in the nation by USA Today. But rival DeSoto had rallied to tie the score in the third quarter before Green took over for Allen.
He came off the bench and burst for a 67-yard touchdown, outrunning two cornerbacks, including one wearing fluorescent green shoes. Then Green grabbed that shotgun snap by the iconic blue star and heaved the ball 50 yards in the air — touchdown.
Gophers fans can watch those highlights online and dream of Green’s future in maroon and gold. He’s one of the marquee recruits Minnesota officially will unveil Wednesday, on national signing day.
Green graduated high school early and enrolled at the university in January, making him eligible for spring practice. With senior-to-be Mitch Leidner recovering from foot surgery, Green and sophomore-to-be Demry Croft will each get long looks this spring, competing to become Leidner’s long-term replacement.
Green has tried keeping a low profile the past 11 months, making him somewhat of a mystery as this new journey begins. He declined to be interviewed for this story but granted a rare interview to the Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman last month and was asked why he switched from Oregon to the Gophers.
“I felt as if [Oregon] wasn’t as good of a situation or ideal place, and then Minnesota was my top choice,” Green said. “I felt very at home here, obviously.”
Green has returned to a place where he already built a stockpile of memories. He emerged as a budding football star in ninth grade, after transferring to East Ridge from Hill-Murray.
“As soon as you saw him out there on the football field, you knew he was a special talent,” former East Ridge coach Mike Pendino said. “I think he was actually better than John Stocco, who was very good and played for me as a freshman at Holy Angels.”
Stocco posted a 29-7 record as a three-year starting quarterback for Wisconsin. Green thrived for three seasons at East Ridge, drawing interest from all over the country. Midway through his junior season, he narrowed his college choices to Minnesota, Michigan State and Oregon and picked the Ducks.
Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant, whose team eliminated Green’s East Ridge squad from the 2014 state tournament, said: “I don’t know how we beat him. Honest to God, he looked like a pro quarterback running around out there.”
Green also was a standout basketball player at East Ridge. But his last athletics competition in Minnesota ended with an all-time blooper. He made a layup — into the wrong basket — that gave Cretin Derham-Hall a one-point lead with 20 seconds remaining in an eventual East Ridge section loss.
“He felt bad; he wasn’t happy about it,” said Connor Mohs, a football teammate of Green’s from East Ridge who will join the Gophers this fall as a preferred walk-on.
By then, Green’s family already had planned to move, as his father, Bryan Green, had taken a transfer to the Dallas area. Bryan, who could not be reached to comment for this story, was on the Gophers’ 1991 roster as a running back but didn’t see game action.
The family moved to Allen, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas. Allen High School, which has an 18,000-seat, $60 million football stadium, needed to replace Kyler Murray, a four-year starter who was rated as the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2015. Murray went to Texas A&M and has since transferred to Oklahoma.
Short, eventful stint
The move to Texas gave Green a new adventure, but it also meant saying goodbye to his East Ridge friends in the middle of high school.
Mohs said Green is the type of person who “fits right in wherever he goes. He’s an outgoing kid and gets people laughing. Nice guy. If you didn’t know about [his national recruiting profile], you could never tell. He’s super down-to-earth.”
Green went through spring practice at Allen and finished behind junior quarterback Mitchell Jonke on the depth chart. Green had taken snaps under center in East Ridge’s offense, and he was adjusting to Allen’s up-tempo, spread system.
“Mitchell Jonke had played in it for a year,” former Allen coach Tom Westerberg said. “So he’d been in a system like that, kind of knew it a little better than Seth at the time.”
Once Allen’s season started, Westerberg opted to use a quarterback platoon. Green started about half the games and wound up being named All-District. But Jonke got the starting nod during the playoffs. Three weeks after Green led the victory over DeSoto, Allen had its 57-game winning streak ended by West Lake in the state semifinals.
Westerberg, who won four state titles in 12 seasons at Allen, has since left to become the coach and athletic director at Barbers Hill High School, outside Houston.
For the season, Green completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 1,481 yards. He rushed for 865 yards, racking up 29 combined touchdowns, with seven interceptions.
“I think [the Texas experience is] going to end up making him a better person and a better player because he really had to compete,” Pendino said. “The kid showed what he was made of. If you looked at the stats and watched his games, he was, in my eyes, the best quarterback down there.”
Change of heart
Green has a unique combination of size, speed and arm strength. Westerberg said Green’s work ethic — film study, weight room training, etc. — is “second to none.” But scouting analysts also see inconsistencies in Green’s throwing mechanics. Like any incoming freshman, he’s far from a finished product.
When he first committed to Oregon, Rivals.com had him ranked as the nation’s No. 8 dual-threat quarterback, but he has since dropped to No. 22 on that list. Oregon continued to add quarterbacks to this year’s recruiting class, making it look as if the Ducks had cooled on Green.
When he flipped to Minnesota, he cited Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost’s departure to become Central Florida’s head coach. Meanwhile, Gophers coach Tracy Claeys had just fired offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and was in the process of hiring his replacement, which became Jay Johnson, from Louisiana-Lafayette.
“I got the feeling the writing was on the wall [at Oregon],” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “Not that they told [Green] to leave, but they probably weren’t showing him as much attention as they did early on.”
Still, Lemming noted how fortunate the Gophers are, with Green set to sign his letter of intent Wednesday.
“He’s a big-time catch at quarterback,” he said. “He was actually the top prospect in Minnesota before he left. So it’s a good thing they’re bringing him back home.”