Since his days as an All-America defensive end and English major at Syracuse in the mid-1980s, Tim Green of the Falcons has successfully balanced two passions—football and writing. A first-round draft pick by Atlanta in 1986, Green spent his first four years as a pro fighting through injuries and position changes. But in 1990 he was moved back to end, and he has become the most dependable performer on the Falcon defensive front, despite being small (6'2", 245 pounds) for his position.
Green has made remarkable progress in his off-field endeavors as well. He has completed an as-yet-unpublished novel, Ruffians, which is an account of what pro football is really like; he does occasional commentary on life in the NFL for National Public Radio; and he writes a weekly in-season column for the Syracuse Herald-Journal on his experiences as a pro. He writes whenever the mood strikes him, sometimes working on his laptop computer during flights to road games.
Green has also completed two years of law school at Syracuse, and he would like to be a trial lawyer when his football career is over. "I love reading and writing," Green says. "I've always enjoyed doing more than one thing at one time. I'd consider it a great compliment to be known as a Renaissance man, because I've always wanted to develop the mind and the body and the spirit at the same time."
In contrast to most players who produce columns for newspapers and magazines, Green writes well and with feeling about a side of football the fan rarely sees. "People don't really know what happens to a football player," says Green. "There's a lot of stress and anxiety. There's love and hatred and human drama. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of it reading the sports pages, but not often. And it's not all anguish. I know I'm living out my childhood dream, playing in the NFL, and writing it down helps me realize where I am."
In September he wrote a column about how he felt on the opening day of his seventh NFL season, shortly after a recurring neck injury had forced Atlanta defensive end Rick Bryan to retire. Bryan had had an emotional parting with a group of teammates at a dinner. Wrote Green in the Herald-Journal, "When it was time to leave the restaurant...there was some break-up talk of a group fishing trip, maybe even to Alaska, during the off-season. And that sounded like a good idea. But it was time to say goodbye, and so I gave Rick a shake of the hand and a hug. No, I didn't look him in the eye. I couldn't. And I didn't mention the fishing trip either, because I've never been much good at making plans I know I won't keep....
"Back in the locker room the next day, I checked my protective neck padding and I pumped some extra air into the padding inside my helmet. Like a gypsy gazing into a crystal ball, I looked at my own distorted reflection in the glossy black surface of my Falcons helmet. The smile let me know I was glad to be there. But there was nothing I could see that told me how long I would last. I'm 28, remember. A 28-year-old defensive lineman. I'm old."