Stephfon Green has no problem with other people's success. He's quick to praise his Penn State teammates. Like most of them, he understands that rebounding from a 7-6 season against a 2011 schedule that is just as daunting will require improvement across the board.
But the Nittany Lions' senior running back also looks at his career and sees time running out. He only has a few more chances to have the kind of season he wants to have, to have his own success. And he plans to do everything he can to make sure that happens.
"It’s going to be a redemption year for me. Nobody knows my name, no articles about me, and I’m glad," he said. "It’s a motivator. It’s a great feeling. People think I’m an envious type of person because I don’t get all that, but no — I keep my mouth shut, I do what I have to do. And like I said, my whole motto is go out there and make everybody a believer."
Green had two problems during his first three seasons at Penn State. First, he had Evan Royster, who carried the ball 604 times from 2008-2010 and left school as the Lions' all-time leading rusher, ahead of him on the depth chart. The bigger problem was his inability to stay healthy; he missed the final quarter of the 2009 Rose Bowl with a dislocated ankle, an injury that sidelined him the following spring. In 2009, Green missed two midseason games with a sprained ankle. Last season, he suffered a head injury on a kickoff return at Ohio State, then missed nearly all of the Outback Bowl after suffering yet another ankle injury in the first quarter. This spring, he missed a few practices with a shoulder injury.
All were relatively minor setbacks. But when you're fighting to take carries from Royster and hold off promising freshman Silas Redd, they add up. Green said he tried not to let the injuries bother him.
"It’s a part of the game," said Green, who will enter his senior year with 1,087 yards on 224 carries. "If I sit up there and think about it I’m just going to tire myself and frustrate myself to the point where I probably wouldn’t want to do it no more. But that’s not me. I’m not a quitter. I started something and I’m going to finish it, whether it be going to the NFL or not. I’m going to finish it and I’m hoping this year will be a great one for me."
To that end, Green is working feverishly this summer. But he's also trying to work smarter and take measures he believes will help him stave off injury, if such a thing is possible in the higher levels of football. He's put in extra core training to improve his strength and stamina, and is working on blocking and catching passes off-balance so he'll be able to avoid or at least better absorb contact in those awkward positions this season.
If he can stay on the field, Green believes he'll be able to produce. And if he can do that, the publicity will take care of itself. For now, he's using what he perceives as a lack of pub as motivation.
"I’m glad I’m not talked about like that. I’m glad I’m forgotten," he said. "It’s all going to be worth it at the end."