Benjarvus Green-Ellis Brings it Old School
by steve deossie
photograph courtesy of the new england patriots
Everything about the NFL these days is geared toward the flash and the hype. Football fans and, therefore, the NFL want more passing, more points, and more excitement; 90 percent of the rule changes over the last decade have been designed to make it easier for offenses to throw the ball all over the field with impunity. So in this highly charged atmosphere, where every television network is chomping at the bit to showcase the next human highlight reel, how would an unheralded and undrafted free agent become the starting running back for the best NFL franchise? Easy. If you are BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the New England Patriots, you just bring it “old-school.”
When Green-Ellis came to the Patriots in 2008, nobody could have predicted this level of success for the young man from New Orleans by way of the University of Mississippi. The Patriots had just come off the most impressive offensive season in the history of the NFL. Their running back was a young first-round pick who was coming off a pretty good season. There was really no room for Green-Ellis. But he looked at things from a different angle than the rest of us—he saw the hole.
Laurence Maroney was that first-round pick, talented but soft. Green-Ellis, on the other hand, is all heart but no hint of soft. Green-Ellis knew he could take Maroney’s job by being tougher and smarter. He would be the anti-Maroney; he would run harder and not fumble. Green-Ellis has close to 450 career carries with zero fumbles. He has the respect of his teammates and coaches for his work ethic and demeanor. He works extremely hard, and he makes the most of the talent he has. In the modern-day NFL, that qualifies him as being old-school.
In the NFL, where too many players have a choreographed routine to celebrate even the most trivial accomplishment, Green-Ellis stands out as being remarkably low-key. His teammates have dubbed him The Lawfirm because his full name sounds like a bunch of law partners, but the moniker also references something implacable, firm, standing for justice. He has no pre-rehearsed dance when he scores a touchdown. He would not even consider celebrating when he runs for a first down. Green-Ellis celebrates by giving credit to his teammates when they accomplish something together. He understands more than anyone that he is successful only because of his hard work and that of the people around him.
Right next to the door leading into the Patriots’ locker room, there is a simple sign on the wall that reads do your job. Green-Ellis takes that advice to heart—he does his job, he does it well, and then lines up to do it again. No absurd ego. No self-promotion. Talking to Green-Ellis, one gets the impression this is a lifestyle for him and not just how he approaches his work. Green-Ellis is so old-school that it actually seems new.