By I.J. Rosenberg – For the AJC
Tim Green has done it all. He graduated summa cum laude from Syracuse University, has a law degree, is a best-selling author and has been a commentator for NFL football games on Fox.
Oh, and he also played a little football for the Atlanta Falcons.
A first-round choice (17th overall) in the 1986 NFL draft, Green played during one of the franchise’s toughest periods, an eight-year stretch where the Falcons won only 45 games (six double-digit-loss seasons) and made just one playoff appearance.
But always a fan favorite, the good looking kid from Liverpool, N.Y., Green was one of the club’s better players, a hard-working linebacker/defensive end who dropped more than a few quarterbacks on their back.
Green began playing at the age of 8, then going on to Liverpool High School as an offensive lineman. He switched to defense his sophomore year when his team won sectionals and he was named defensive MVP. The colleges came calling — Notre Dame, Penn State, Georgia — but he chose Syracuse, the school that told him he could play right away.
Green was a member of a Syracuse 1982 freshman class that began a resurgence of Orange football under coach Dick MacPherson. He did play right away but his freshman year, the team went 2-9. They upset Top 20-ranked Boston College and West Virginia to end his sophomore season at 6-5. Then the following year, Green and Syracuse pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history, beating No. 1 Nebraska 17-9 at the Carrier Dome and again finishing 6-5. In his senior season, Syracuse went 7-5 and played in its first bowl game (Cherry Bowl) in six years.
Meanwhile, Green was also killing it in the classroom, graduating at the top of his class (co-valedictorian) only a month after being taken by the Falcons in the draft.
Then it all got tough.
In 1986, Green played only in nine games as a rookie because of injuries while the Falcons finished 7-8-1. The following season the bottom fell out, the team going 3-13 under Marion Campbell and winning just 16 games over a four-year period.
Green, however, became one of the team’s better players, collecting five sacks in both the 1989 and ’91 seasons and a career-high six sacks in 1990. In ’91 under head coach Jerry Glanville, the Falcons went 10-6 and beat the New Orleans Saints (27-20) in a wild-card game before losing to Washington (24-7) in the divisional round.
All along, Green kept writing and, as the 1993 season approached, he was close to finishing his first novel. He also had begun law school at Syracuse during the offseason in 1987. Because of several knee injuries, the fact that he was about to graduate law school and that he felt good about being an author, Green retired after the 1993 season. Quickly, he was offered a commentator’s job by Fox.
He began his television and law career the next year and would stay with Fox for 10 years, while also doing a short stint as a host on “Current Affair.’’ He wrote 14 suspense novels before turning to nonfiction and also writing books for children. With 29 books published, he was named the winner of the 2011 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, “given annually to six former NCAA student-athletes for distinguished career accomplishment on the 25th year of their college graduation.’’
Where he lives: He has been married to Illyssa for 27 years and they live in upstate New York on the Finger Lakes in Skaneateles. They have five children: Thane, Tessa, Troy, Tate and Ty.
What he does: Now 52, Green continues to write full time and is also part of two law firms, one that deals with energy, intellectual properties and reassurance and another one comprised of former district attorneys that offer criminal defense services.
On going to Syracuse: “I was recruited by about everyone. But I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t play a lot as a freshman in high school and didn’t want to go through that again and Syracuse told me I could play right away and I did.’’
On the reemergence of Orange football during his era: “I was glad to be a part of it. The big game was the one we beat Nebraska in where we were like a 48-point underdog. I had 10 tackles and a couple of sacks and was named the Sports Illustrated player of the week. I felt then I had a great chance of playing in the NFL. Then we went to the bowl game my senior year and from there Syracuse started getting players like Donavan McNabb.’’
On being drafted by the Falcons: “I was thrilled to be a first-round pick and excited about going to Atlanta because I had been in upstate New York all my life. But my agent told me, ‘That’s too bad.’’’
On his Falcons career: “For me, it was two very different experiences: the first four years and the second four years. The first four years were very difficult and nine days into my rookie camp, I tore my calf muscle. The first four years there wasn’t much of an expectation. That changed the second four. When Deion (Sanders) was drafted (1989), it was very exciting. I am grateful I had those years. You have to remember, for every 16-0 team there is an 0-16 team, for every team that gets a win, there is a team that loses.’’
On his decision to retire in 1993: “I think I probably could have hung in there for four more years but there were four major things: First, I didn’t have any more medial meniscus in my right knee from two operations. Second, there was the publication of my first novel which led to a three-book contract. Third, I had graduated from law school and fourth, Fox had offered me a contract. There is never a good time to leave but I was extremely fortunate to have those other things. I look at it like the story of the guy up to his neck in the river and a boat comes by and says to get in. He says, ‘God has got me.’ Then a canoe comes by and the guy says the same thing. Then a helicopter comes by and he says the same thing. Well, he drowns and gets to heaven and sees God and asks him what happened. God tells him, ‘You dummy, I sent you two boats and a helicopter.’ Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice and I was on the decline.’’
On his connection with the Falcons: “It is really because of Arthur (Blank). He has been very generous to me and my family on a personal level. He also has been a huge proponent on what I am doing with reading. I am very grateful to him and I didn’t even play for him.’’