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Pirate
Time
Machine
No. 19

With Ron Cherubini
©2001-2003 Bonesville.net

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Leander Green

Pirate QB made Wishbone fly


Though small in size, Leander
Green was big in the whole of
the ECU quarterback tradition.
(Photo: ECU Media Relations)

Though he quickly points to Jeff Blake as the marquee member of the East Carolina quarterback continuum, Leander Green likes to think that maybe, somewhere on that growing list of quality signal callers, there is a spot for himself.

For many who watched Green direct Pat Dye’s Wishbone offense from 1977-79, there is no question that the smallish speedster from Down East belongs among what has become a legendary line of QBs at ECU.

“You know, I’m glad that I did a decent job of it,” Green said, reflecting on his place in Pirate lore. “I don’t ever remember Coach Dye commenting on where I fall (in comparison) with other Wishbone quarterbacks. But, I know he gave me the chance to play and I was fortunate to have had some success with that chance.”

It was clearly a different era in the landscape of college football, but at ECU, the era that featured a prolific running attack is highlighted clearly in contrast to the complex passing game the offense has emphasized for more than a decade.

Dye’s requirements at quarterback were simple. In practical terms, though, it was quite hard to find a guy who could do it well. The Wishbone was predicated on speed of foot and of mind. And the triggerman had to be able to make multiple reads in split seconds while never allowing his eyes to give away what his mind was processing. In Green, Dye found another Mike Weaver… except with exceptional speed. And Dye found him by seeing what others didn’t see.

“We ran the Wishbone at Jacksonville High School,” Green said. “And, they ran it at East Carolina, so it was a good match for me. Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and others were interested, but not for quarterback. Appalachian State ran the Wishbone then as well and I probably would have been a quarterback there, but of the big schools, East Carolina was the only one that saw me as a quarterback.”

After Pirates linebacker coach Frank Orkle saw Green play at Jacksonville, he told Dye that they had a quarterback prospect.

“Coach Dye came to our home and he was sincere with us,” Green said. “I felt like he would give me an opportunity to play. We talked about the Wishbone and he said that he felt that I could fit into his program very well. He was pretty candid and that was a good fit for me.”

Green had to rely on his gut instincts during the recruiting process. His biggest source of football support, his father Lander, passed away late in his high school career, and his mother, Agnes, wasn’t very vocal in weighing in on his decision on where to go — though later she would admit she wanted her son closer to home.

“I lost my dad my senior year,” Green said. “He had always wanted me to go to Georgia Tech and, before he passed, he had called an assistant coach there and they wanted me to come down and walk on to the team. My mom wanted me to be happy, but she stayed out of those types of decisions. Losing dad made ECU an easier choice for me because I wanted to stay close to my mom and home. I have two younger brothers (Roderick and Lamont) who were at home then. East Carolina was the right fit for me not only as a quarterback, but also with what was going on at home.”

Green’s decision was made more obvious at practice for the Shrine Bowl and the East-West All-Star games. He and Jacksonville teammate Billy Ray Washington (Split End at ECU from 1977-79) were close friends and wanted to go to the same school. At the practices, the two met a bunch of players from around the state that just clicked. The group then conspired.

“Billy Ray and I had played together since midget ball and he was trying to make a decision on a school and we wanted to go to the same school,” Green said. “When we went to the Shrine Bowl and the East-West game, we met a bunch of guys and we all became (fast) friends. We all decided on East Carolina. For Billy Ray, who was a receiver, it probably wasn’t the best fit. But for me, it was. For some of the other guys, it was more about all of us getting together and becoming friends. So, we all decided to go to ECU, together.”

More importantly to Green during preparations for the East-West all-star game, were some words from his future coach. On the East roster along with Green was another quarterback and ECU-signee Tony Tripp. Tripp was a standout from Havelock High School for legendary coach Frank Ciamillo. That year, Ciamillo was the coach for the East team in the all-star game and he played his quarterback for most of the game, leaving Green to be mostly an observer on the sideline.


ECU vs. William & Mary (Submitted Photo)

“Pat Dye, the coach, was the same as the man that signed me,” Green said. “He was pretty straight up with me from when I signed to when I finished (at ECU). In the East-West game, for some reason Coach Ciamillo didn’t see much in me and did not play me much. After the game, Coach Dye came down and said, ‘I know you’re upset and that both of you are coming (to ECU). You both are going to get a shot to see who is the better quarterback.’ That meant a lot to me and I won the job and Tripp moved to linebacker. I felt good about that. Again, it was the fairness of Coach Dye to let you line up and do your job and may the best man win.”

Green’s official visit to ECU only furthered his belief that he was heading in the right direction.

“I must say, I am a small time guy and had not seen a lot of big universities since they weren’t recruiting me,” he said. “I was not being wowed much. Virginia Tech had nice facilities but it was so far away. East Carolina… as far as I was concerned, they had a football program and facilities didn’t mean a whole lot to me. The people seemed friendly and I was paling around with guys like Zack Valentine and they were welcoming me in the family. They all talked about trying to start something big at East Carolina and that appealed to me.”

Of course to be a big part of something big, requires that a player start as a little part.

“I was just like the other freshman,” he recalled. “Everyone starts out as a bug-eater on scout team. To me, it was just jumping out there and playing football. It was where it all starts. As far as (college players being) bigger and faster, nothing really registered to me. Except maybe Cary Godette. Cary was there and he was a household name… he was the man. I never had to run into him much, and that was very good for me.”

Though he showed many glimpses early on of the quarterback that he became while at ECU, Green is the first to point out that he had a long way to go before he ever felt like he was good.

“When I first got there, Mike Weaver was the quarterback,” Green said. “Watching him, I did immediately find out that I had a lot to learn. In high school, every play was predetermined… you know, you hand it here, or you keep it. In college, it was all read with nothing except the snap predetermined. I learned an awful lot from Mike Weaver, watching him. Mike had the greatest mechanics for a Wishbone quarterback than any other I’ve ever seen, including all of them… at Oklahoma, Arkansas, whatever. He was an outstanding quarterback. Weaver was one of those guys who you would watch and just say to yourself, ‘hmmmmmm!’”

Though he had hoped to get some playing time as a freshman, after watching his predecessor, he knew it wouldn’t be at quarterback that year. It would be his sophomore year before he got the chance.

“With Weaver graduating, that left me and (senior) Jimmy Southerland to battle for the position and I saw my opportunity to make it at the position,” Green said. “My sophomore year was probably my favorite year. Me and Jimmy formed a great partnership and we actually alternated that year. It couldn’t have worked out any better. If I was not having a good game, he would come in and give us a boost. He was a little better in the passing game and I was a better runner. We got along great and it was a good system for us.”

The team was 8-3 using the dual quarterback system, and then, his junior season, Green took over full-time, leading the Pirates to records of 9-3 and 7-3-1 respectively. Looking back, Green admits that he evolved a lot over time.

“I wasn’t that comfortable (in the offense) until my senior year,” he said. “My sophomore year, I was decent but had a lot to learn. My junior year, I honestly stayed beat up pretty much the whole season. We opened with the State game and they had a good team and they beat me up pretty good. From that point, I stayed broken up most of the season. My senior year, I felt pretty good. We had a lot of seasoned guys so we could have a couple of plays called in the huddle and it was easy to check off at the line of scrimmage. We were pretty good but we lost a couple of key games that kept us from a bowl game. The offense scored a lot of points but we still lost to Duke when we should have beat them and we lost to Wake by a field goal. Those games cost us (a bowl).”

Green, of course, attributes the success to those around him.

“I was fortunate to have guys like Theodore Sutton, Anthony Collins, Eddie Hicks, Mike Hawkins, Sam Harrell, and Willie Hawkins to give the ball to,” Green said. “When you have that type of talent, it’s a lot easier to be a good quarterback.”

Green's appreciation for his offensive teammates is evident, but it pales in comparison to how he sounds when he recalls some of the guys on the other side of the Pirate line of scrimmage.

“Zack Valentine,” he recalled. “I don’t think I ever saw anyone ever beat him in practice. His technique was so good, he just didn’t get beat. And the other end, Fred Chavis… he was not real big, in fact sometimes he played defensive back, but he could run like crazy. Gerald Hall was a super quick defensive back and as good a punt returner as I have ever seen. And Doug Smith… I have had rarely had a player wow me like Doug. We used to call him ‘Bam-Bam’ because this guy was a bad dude. He was big, fast, strong and when he came in his freshman year, he was obviously something special.

“Even Bam-Bam got a little punished his freshman year by the defensive guys. Man, Zack and his (defensive) crew were something very special at ECU.”

Green, though by nature unassuming, deserves the recognition he gets from the ECU faithful. He made the Wishbone look easy, with the fluidness of water… fast moving water, of course.

“It is a difficult position to play,” he said. “Once the snap comes, your mechanics need to be good. You have to force yourself to stay on the line (of scrimmage) and not drift into the backfield. You have to ride the fullback and you can’t look at him, you have to feel him back there. And when I say ride him, it really is a ride because my eyes are fixed on the (defensive) tackle, linebacker, or end depending on what the alignment is. There are multiple reads on every play and it all happens very quickly.

“I have to decide to pull or give based on a sequence of reads that have to be made internally. If you make a bad read, you’re dead.”

Oh yes… Green made it look easy and in the Dye era, the Pirates rolled to a 48-18-1 mark with the smallish quarterback from Jacksonville orchestrating 24 of those victories.

Dye made good on his promise to give Green a shot at the position and Green delivered. Though his mechanics and speed were clearly visible, it was the intangibles of being a Pirate that made the difference for Green.

“Coach Dye ingrained in us, that sense that we were all outcasts of some sort,” Green said. “He used to call us the skinny-legged guys that nobody else wanted. We were the mediocre guys that turned out to be pretty good football players. We weren’t Carolina or State, we were just little ol’ East Carolina… but you didn’t want to play us.

“We were a bunch of walk-ons and not-highly-recruited guys that turned out to be pretty good. Guys like Sutton, Harold Randolph, Hicks… we were a bunch of guys nobody else wanted. But we came together as a team, committed to building a program.”

Green takes great satisfaction when he sees the Pirates as a program today.

Green at work (Submitted photo)

“I absolutely feel a part of the program’s success,” he said. “Zack and the (Les & Kenny) Strayhorns and (Carlester) Crumpler, they all started it and we carried it on. Coach Dye carried it on and we all ensured that it kept going in the right direction. I think we all take some satisfaction there. I know I like to think that I had a little to do with that growth.”

Green left East Carolina and went into a career at Carolina Telephone, where he has remained for 20-plus years. He has worked through all of the buyouts and mergers that have him now as a manager at Sprint.

Green is married, to Denise. He has no children and he spends his free time like many former athletes, on the links, where he is working down his handicap — which is a respectable 6, for the record.

If he has any regrets, it is only that he didn’t give the NFL a shot. Otherwise, he is happy at home in North Carolina.

“If I regret anything after college, it was that I did not make an attempt on my own to play in the NFL,” he said. “I had the feeling.... that I was always too small to play (in the League), but I always had the feeling I was too small to play football period. But, I did it in junior high, high, and at the college level, so I regret not giving the next level a shot. It would have certainly not been at quarterback in the NFL, but I feel like I might have competed at the receiver spot.”

He will always wonder, ‘what if,’ but it doesn’t dominate Green’s being.

“Really… I can’t complain,” he said. “I can put food on the table and a roof over our heads. I can’t say that I ever aspired to be CEO or something like that. I guess I really ‘like calling North Carolina home (pause for giggle).’ I wanted to hang out here and was able to do that in the telecommunications industry, which is having some tough times now. So, I can’t complain, I’ve been with them for more than 20 years.”

On the golf course (Submitted photo)

And he gets his competitive kick golfing.

“I am a golfing fanatic,” he said. “I really do enjoy it. I got into it, probably, in my early 30s. At first, I dabbled a bit until some of the guys who I play with started to pick at me and got my competitive juices running. So, I said to myself, ‘I can do this.’ Been getting better ever since. I really look forward (to the golf tourney at) Lettermen’s (weekend) each year.”

ECU has remained important to Green, but like many football players, his deepest connections are really not memories of being on the field. And he is really not a good watcher of football these days.

“Probably strange, I guess people don’t understand it, but I really enjoyed playing it, but not really watching it,” he said. “When I do go to an ECU game, I don’t sit in the stands focusing on a position or what the coaches are trying to do on the field. I’m just sitting there trying to take the whole game — not too deep. I like the big plays!”

Though he is not a big watcher of the games, he is completely hooked into his memories of ECU, the campus, the people, and his teammates.

“ECU was an absolute great time for me,” he recalled. “I would choose it over and over to do over again, if I had to. The people and associations were great. I enjoyed everything about East Carolina — the football guys, the campus, the classes. I had some good professors. I was there to learn and got a lot out of the business school. It was the place for me.”

And his favorite golf partners are his long-lasting friends from ECU.

“Actually Willie Holley, Thomas McLaurin, Joe Godette, James Freer, and Theodore Sutton — that group — we all stay in touch and get together about twice a year, usually around the Fourth (of July) and then at one of the ECU games. I should also mention Jeff Hagans, he was center, and recently he has been joining in our get-togethers. Those guys from ECU will always be important to me.”


The "12" crew (L-R): McLaurin, Green, Sutton, Holley, Freer.
Not pictured, Godette. (Submitted photo)

Green cannot put a fix on where he believes he belongs in ECU quarterback lore, but in hindsight he hopes his is a name fans will remember when they reflect on the Pirates' long line of prolific signal callers.

“It is hard for me to know where I fit in (among the greats at ECU),” he pondered. “We all did things differently. Blake was so good and obviously stands out the most and (David) Garrard was a strong kid. He and Jeff are passers and I was an option quarterback, Mike (Weaver) was an option quarterback. For me, it is difficult to compare myself to (the passers). I hope that my contributions, though, are comparable.”

For a quarterback that finds it rare to be wowed by others, Green certainly ‘wowed’ those who watched him produce for the Pirates. And, in doing so, his era under center certainly established one of the milestone markers on the ECU quarterback spectrum.

Green was a winner in many ways, but most importantly in terms of his legacy, he was a pure winner on the Pirate football field.

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LEANDER GREEN BIO BOX
Name (Nickname):

Leander Green (Hoshimoto)
 

Age:

44
.

Sport:

Football
.

Years at ECU:

1976-79
.

Position/Jersey No.

Quarterback/ No. 12 then No. 10
.

Hometown:

Jacksonville, NC
.

Currently Resides:

Elm City, NC
.

Occupation:
  • Business Service Manager, Sprint

Degree(s)
  • BS, Business,  East Carolina University

.

Marital Status:

Married - Denise


.

Children:

No children
 

Quotable: 

“Coach Dye ingrained in us, that sense that we were all outcasts of some sort. He use to call us the skinny-legged guys that nobody else wanted. We were the mediocre guys that turned out to be pretty good football players. We weren’t Carolina or State, we were just little ol’ East Carolina… but you didn’t want to play us.”
.

TEN QUESTIONS

1. Who is your favorite current Pirate and Why?

“I have to admit, that I don’t get to see the Pirates as much as I did (right after I graduated). I went back to all of the home games or road games at State, but after seven or eight years, I kind of got away from it. I’ve only been to one this year. I usually try and make Letterwinner’s Day to check out the school and the game.”
.
.

2. What do you miss most about ECU?

“I guess, the family atmosphere. One of the things that Zack (Valentine) actually mentioned when I got there was (the program) they were building… that (the school, team, and coaches were) trying to put ECU on the map and that is what I found to be true. It was great camaraderie trying to make something big.”
.

3. Where is your favorite spot on the ECU campus?

“The hangout was in the block in the middle of campus. That is where we all hung out. Fred Chavis (defensive end) was the comedian of the team and he kept us cracking up pretty good in between classes."
.

4. What was your dorm room and favorite dorm story?

“212-B, Belk. My suitemates were Theodore Sutton (RB), James Freer (DB), Tootie Robbins (T), Thomas McLaurin (DB), Joe Godette (TE), and Robert Boykins. Tootie, believe it or not, was the guy we picked on the most. He was the biggest but easiest to get going. We always had some nickname for him… usually had a nickname associated with the Flintstones. One particular night I had everyone going. Tootie used to chase you down and try and pick you up and (slam you). When he came after me, I went into my room and locked the door. I look down and there was fire under my door. Tootie was trying to smoke me out. I finally got (the fire) out and  he backed off. We had fun picking on Tootie. In 212-B, we did have the best parties on campus. We would out do the Cultural Center. Folks only went there after our parties.”
.

5. Greatest Moment as a Pirate football player?

“Most people associate me with the first time I actually touched the football. Against North Carolina State my sophomore year, I scored a touchdown on my first touch. That is what most people remember. For me, the game against Carolina my senior year was most memorable. That was the game where they kicked a field goal with one second left to tie us. It was one of my better games where I was very solid. And against Carolina, I had not beaten them. They beat us close my sophomore year and then my senior year, they slipped away with a tie with one second on the clock.”
.

6. Most disliked opponent?

“Carolina, for sure.”
.

7. Athletic Influences?

“There was a high school coach… Gideon Johnson who influenced a lot of players down in Jacksonville. He was a super person, in my opinion. He kept a lot of guys out of trouble. He was certainly a big influence and a great coach for me. There were a lot of guys who could play football growing up. I always felt that there were a lot of guys in that area that I played sandlot football with who were really great athletes, but something or other happened (and they didn’t go anywhere). I feel fortunate that I was able to go to school and play football.”
.
.

8. Favorite coach?

“Mr. Pat Dye. He was fair, so fair. When I was being recruited – and I wasn’t widely recruited –  the schools that were interested in me told me that I would play receiver or some position other than quarterback. Pat was the only coach to say that I would get an opportunity to play quarterback first and if it didn’t pan out, they would try something else. I felt that was fair. Coach Dye was offering me a shot and that was all I wanted.”
.
.

9. Best Locker Room Story

“In the Purple-Gold game, the winners always got to eat high on the hog. The winners got steak and the losers got hot dogs. (As players), we made a big deal out of the Purple-Gold game. Well, Oliver Felton, who was a great nose guard during my time, was really pumped up for the game. My team won the game and I don’t remember if I scored the winning touchdown, but I must of done something because Oliver was really mad… at me. In the locker room he picked me up in the body slam position and, to this day, I think he would have done that if the guys had not stopped him. That was my senior year and Oliver was going to slam the (starting) quarterback!”
.

10. Best Emerald City hangout?

“Actually, when I first got there, (the hangout) was the Jolly Roger. The last couple of years, we hung out at the Cultural Center, which we called it the ‘Sweatbox.’ The Cultural Center – I’m not sure what they call it now – was a small building in the middle of campus where we would go and party. It was always the ‘Sweatbox’ to us.”
.

 
 

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