PHOENIX – How impressive is Arizona State defensive lineman B.J. Green II?
As a freshman walk-on last season, he led the Sun Devils with five sacks. He even recorded two in a loss against Wisconsin in the Las Vegas Bowl, finishing the year strong and securing a scholarship.
However, defensive leader is just one part of his personality. He is much more than a football player, as reflected by his focus on robotics.
“I was always fascinated with robotics as a kid, you know, just being interested in like … the movie ‘Robots,’ or like ‘Real Steel,’” Green said.
Although the aspect that initially interested him had to do with the entertainment business and knowing how amusement parks and their rides work, Green also had another motivation.
“I also wanted to do prosthetics for kids with disabilities that can’t afford them, you know, because my two younger siblings have disabilities,” he said. “So I’ve always been around people who had disabilities and just like seeing the struggles of … not being able to afford this or that, like, you know, being able to help along with that is also a big thing.”
Green has a younger brother with Down syndrome and a younger sister with a heart condition. That opened his eyes to the possibilities of applying robotics.
Even though an engineering degree demands time and commitment – for all students, not only college athletes – Green isn’t struggling with his studies.
His father, Byron Green, is not surprised.
“I knew that he could do it from the sophomore year (in high school) when his physics teacher said she was getting great reviews about this football player who’s putting so much time in high school training in football, but yet he’s the top of his class and … he was making straight A’s and he was recommending him to go to AP physics,” Byron said.
Success off or on the field isn’t achieved by chance. ASU defensive line coach Rob Rodriguez said Green has thrived despite a demanding degree.
“He does a great job,” Rodriguez said. “Like I never see a fall off from B.J., in meetings, or on the field because he’s up all night studying. And there’s never any drop off with his grades because of football. And that’s hard to do. It’s really hard. And I think for a young guy to show that type of ability to balance his life, it’s pretty awesome.”
Green and his family took a chance coming to Arizona State. The defensive lineman was living in Georgia when he decided to move to Tempe and walk on. And then his family joined him.
He had other offers, even from Ivy League schools, yet he chose ASU knowing he would have to pay for tuition and compete for a spot on the roster, and eventually, a scholarship.
His reasons behind the decision were numerous but a big one was the coaching staff.
“We knew when he got the call from coach Herm Edwards, that this was the right choice,” Byron Green said, praising Edwards and coaches Rodriguez, Marvin Lewis, Donnie Henderson and Brian Billick. “They’re all a wealth of knowledge. Coming to Arizona State with this plethora of knowledge amongst all coaches, we can’t ask for a better network.”
For B.J. Green, the scholarship means not only can he take the burden off his family’s shoulders, he can identify as a marquee player on the team.
These days, that also means the possibility of an NIL deal, which allows college athletes to receive financial compensation. It is an idea Green has explored, especially because of a specific pregame routine.
“I eat cookies before every game,” he said. “So hopefully a cookie company sponsors me. … I’ve always liked the Crumbl Cookies.”
Achieving a scholarship also means more exposure to NFL scouts, which pleases the sophomore. That way, he could follow in the footsteps of Greg Ellis, his uncle, a defensive end who played 10 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and one with the Oakland Raiders.
“Honestly, I want to be the best player I can be just like, you know, stacking achievements. … I got five sacks last year, but I’m shooting for more this year and, God willing, that leads me to the league,” Green said.
Armed with a scholarship and opportunity, Green hopes to make a bigger impact in the 2022 season and become one of the top defensive players in the Pac-12.