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    The Skip Report: Purple and White Turn to Green in Backfield

    Pat Fitzgerald will be coaching against a fellow Chicagoland native Saturday when P.J. Fleck's Western Michigan Broncos arrive at Ryan Field.

    Pat Fitzgerald will be coaching against a fellow Chicagoland native Saturday when P.J. Fleck's Western Michigan Broncos arrive at Ryan Field.

    Sept. 13, 2013

    Get ready for another primetime kickoff by reading Skip Myslenski's weekly Friday preview. No. 17/16 Northwestern hosts Western Michigan Saturday night.


    Two falls ago, in just the fourth game of his true freshman season, Treyvon Green was thrust onto center stage when Mike Trumpy went down with the knee injury that ended his year. That afternoon, against Illinois down in Champaign, he gained 67 yards on 17 carries, and now he would be part of the 'Cats running back rotation right through to the end of that season.

    He was expected to blossom even further last fall, but here events conspired against that. He suffered an injury scare, Venric Mark emerged, and he lost his grandmother, and he would end his year with 22 rushing attempts for 73 yards and a single touchdown. He was again off the radar when the 'Cats traveled west two Fridays ago for their season opener with Cal. But the next night in Berkeley, with Mark limited by injury, he simply exploded and reintroduced himself, finishing his evening with 16 carries for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns.



    So now, already, he had run further and scored more than he had a year ago and then, last Saturday at home in the 'Cats' rout of Syracuse, he encored that performance by gaining 66 more yards on 14 carries and scoring one more touchdown. "It was a confidence booster for me," Green will say, explaining the importance of his performance out West.

    "Last year I wanted to contribute, but the year Venric was having, there was only so much you can do. We have a two-back system. But Venric was our guy. So for me, it's just a great feeling to bounce back from what I went through last year. It gave me a real confidence boost."


    Last year, in one of the first 'Cat practices for the 2012 season, Treyvon Green got popped by safety Ibraheim Campbell, went down and then -- for long-and-agonizing minutes -- remained on the turf. He was attended there by the team's training staff and here a hush fell over the scene, a hush that remained until he was taken away in an ambulance and delivered to a hospital. "I blacked out for about 15 seconds," Green later remembered of that moment. "The trainer's trying to wake me up. I'm dozing off. As I'm trying to open my eyes, I feel a numbness going down my legs, and I really can't feel my hands. At this point, I'm terrified. I didn't know if I was going to play football again."

    Fortunately, blessedly, that numbness soon dissipated and the feeling returned and within hours it was clear that Green had suffered no debilitating damage. But later, after he had had returned to the field, he would say, "Being out for awhile makes you look at football differently."

    In what way, we more recently asked him.

    "Honestly, any play can be your last," he said. "So the way I approach any play now, any game, this is my last play, this is my last game. So I give it my all, no matter what. I remember when I was in the hospital, I talked to my mom, she told me I need to pray, I need to pray for the game, I need to make sure I'm focused so I can do that every play, so that I can go hard. So now I really think it's about me focusing on that play, doing everything I can do on that play."


    Shortly after last season, his lost season, Treyvon Green met with director of football performance Jay Hooten and the team's nutritionist. They put him on a plan he calls his six-month diet. "It was basically two salads a day. A lot of greens, a lot of vegetables, a lot of fruit," he says, explicating that diet.

    With it he shed eight pounds, dropping down to 207, and as a result, he says, "I feel a lot faster, a lot quicker. I think I showed the coaches in camp, with the diet done, everybody said I looked faster and quicker, and I see it on film myself. So I'm continuing the diet, and continuing to get faster and quicker."

    When he signed with the `Cats, we remind him, he referred to himself as the complete back. Does he still think of himself the same way?

    "Yeah. And now I think it's more prevalent," he says. "Now I do have the speed, now I do have the quickness, and I also have the power and the vision. Every good back has all those to complement them. So I think me having that now, and not having it so much my freshman year, now I think I really am complete."


    The prototype for the complete back, of course, is the late Bear great Walter Payton, which brings us to a story. Back when he was an eighth-grader at Coyle Middle School in Garland, Texas, Treyvon Green received a tape from his oldest brother Eric. It starred Payton, whom he immediately adopted as a model and tried to imitate. He tried to imitate, more specifically, the little hop move Payton used, and once even injured himself in his quest to master it.

    It turns out that even now, so many years later, he still has that tape, and traditionally watches it the day before a game. "To kind of visualize what I'm going to do in the game," he explains.

    And the hop move, is he still trying to master it?

    "I think that hop is only something he could do," Treyvon Green says with a smile. "I tried it out here in practice a few times, but it didn't work out for me. So now I just stick to what I know."

    • Entering the 'Cats Saturday night meeting with winless Western Michigan, Green is averaging a robust 97.5 yards per-game and 6.7 yards per-carry.

    • Mark, who sat out last week's game with Syracuse, is still listed as day-to-day.

    • P.J. Fleck, a native of Kaneville, Ill., is in his first year as the Western coach. He was a star receiver for Northern Illinois from 1999-through-2003 and took over the Broncos after spending last season as the receivers coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs. "A Chicagoan. We've known each other a long time," Pat Fitzgerald said of him. "His guys are playing incredibly hard. Outside of a couple mistakes early in the Michigan State game (their season opener and a 13 point loss), that game's a totally different outcome. So we've got our hands full again."

    • On Fleck's staff is former 'Cats star Tim McGarigle (2002-05), who was tutored by Fitzgerald when he was the team's linebacker coach. McGarigle ended his career with 545 tackles, the FBS record.

    • One bright spot for the Broncos: despite their two losses, they have yet to surrender a touchdown pass.

    The 'Cats kicked off at 9:30 p.m. CT at Cal and at 5 p.m. last Saturday, and are scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. the following week when they host Maine. "The father (in me) likes an 11 o'clock game so I can be a dad on Saturday night," Fitzgerald said when asked which kick time he prefers. "I know our fans enjoy tailgating, so 2:30's pretty good. I think that gives them enough time to go to soccer games with their kids on Saturday morning and get out here and tailgate for four hours. But we'll do whatever. Whenever they ask us to play, we'll play."


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