INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As the NFL Draft unfolded and names began coming off the board, he was the other guy from Mississippi State’s vaunted defense.
He wasn’t the rehabbing-but-elite pass rusher. That was Jeffery Simmons, selected in round 1, 19th overall by the Tennessee Titans.
He wasn’t the premier outside linebacker. That was Montez Sweat, taken 26th overall by Washington.
He wasn’t the physical safety. That was Johnathan Abram, snatched up by the Oakland Raiders with the next pick.
He was Gerri Green.
So he waited. And waited. And waited some more until his cell phone buzzed to life late Saturday afternoon. Two days and 172 picks after his three defensive cohorts officially entered the NFL, Green followed them.
“I was just waiting for a phone call,’’ he said over the weekend. “When I saw it was Indianapolis, Indiana, I knew it was the Colts.
“I was excited. I answered the phone, ‘Yes, I’m ready. Let’s go.’’’
It was the end of three days of waiting, wondering, wishing and hoping. The Colts selected him in round 6 with the 199th overall pick.
While he waited for his turn, Green’s attention remained on his friends/teammates. His enthusiasm increased as each name was announced by commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I was so excited,’’ Green said. “I was sitting there screaming, recording it. When Montez and John went back-to-back I almost broke my phone.
“It was a big deal. I was so happy for those guys. The way they worked I truly felt like they deserved it. They’re incredible players.’’
A fifth Bulldog, guard Elgton Jenkins, was selected in the second round by Green Bay.
The attention finally shifted to Green in round 6 when the Colts added him to their draft haul.
“Soon as I got draft they called me, too,’’ he said of his teammates. “They showed love. We were a big family down there.
“I was just waiting for my time, whenever the number may be. I kinda was a little more anxious, but I was still patient.’’
It was three days of validation that, yes, Mississippi State was something special on defense last season. The Bulldogs ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense and No. 2 in scoring and against the run. It marked the first time in school history four defensive players had been selected in the same draft.
They boasted elite talent here, there, everywhere: Simmons, Sweat, Abram and Green.
Yet when it came time for the unit to select a captain, it was Green.
“I cherished that role,’’ he said. “It was my role, but I had guys like Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat. We kind of just helped police the d-line.
“It was my teammates that voted me captain. I respected them. It was an honor to have them vote me that; just how I came to work every day. I was a guy who always did the right thing. I always say, ‘You can’t expect other people to do things the right way if you don’t do it yourself.’’’
The defense became a tight-knit group while becoming a national force.
“It was fun week-in, week-out just getting after the other team,’’ Green said. “Our defensive line was very competitive. We always started a game off, ‘I’m getting there first. Who’s getting the first sack?’ Somebody gets there (and), ‘I’m getting there next.’
“We were just very competitive.’’
Jealousy never reared its divisive despite the presence of so much individual top-tier talent.
“It was all a team thing,’’ Green said. “It was all about the defense. Nobody put their goals ahead of our defense and I respect those guys for doing that.
“With the accolades and everything they were breaking, they could easily have done it. But credit to them, credit to their character.’’
Green appeared in 52 career games, and started 13 in each of his last two seasons. He was steady, forceful during that 26-game stretch with 69 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
The Colts were on hand at the Senior Bowl as Green worked out for scouts at SAM linebacker, and general manager Chris Ballard sent position coach Dave Borgonzi to put Green through similar work at a subsequent meeting.
In the end, Green’s an end.
“At the end of the day,’’ Ballard said, “we think his best position is going to be at defensive end.’’
Green looks the part at 6-4, 255 pounds. He believes he’ll be a good fit in coordinator Matt Eberflus’ scheme.
“I feel like my speed, my athleticism and then just my effort to the ball, just playing with effort and I am playing with that every down,’’ he said.
In his brief meetings with Eberflus, Green already has picked up the overriding requirement.
“You have to play to the whistle,’’ he said with a smile. “I got a little glimpse of it when they came and worked me out during my individual workout. But from the first practice to the meetings, it has been stressed a lot about how hard we need to go.’’