By Trevor Williams
After Christmas, as most students at Washington State prepared to resume classes, a small crop of new Cougar football players, including freshman wide receiver Calvin Green, prepared for their first taste of college.
Green, a Sacramento native from Luther Burbank High School, was among six Cougars to join the WSU Football team a semester early and in a matter of weeks, he traded in the halls of his California high school for a snow-covered Terrell Mall; a difficult task according to inside wide receivers coach David Yost. Freshman offensive lineman Sean Krepsz, from Riverside, Calif., also graduated from high school early and arrived in Pullman in January.
“I think it doesn’t fit everybody,” said Yost. “For the right guy it’s really a good thing. It takes a guy who has some maturity, because they have to come right into the college lifestyle.”
Green has shown maturity in his first months at Washington State and his decision to leave Sacramento a semester early allows him to follow in the footsteps of a former Burbank graduate and Oregon cornerback.
“I thought of Terrance Mitchell,” said Green. “He graduated early for Burbank and it worked out really well for him, so I thought it was a great opportunity for me as well.”
Mitchell, who went to Oregon early in 2010, won a starting spot for the Ducks after his performance in spring camp. While Green doesn’t know if he will earn a starting spot his first few months in Pullman have been defined by a major quality; hard work.
“Coming from my high school, we work a lot and I’m a competitor,” said Green. “That’s all I could do; compete.”
Upon arriving on campus, Green entered straight into a signature workout regimen that Head Coach Mike Leach and the Cougars call “Midnight Maneuvers.”
“Midnight Maneuvers was a chance to show that I’m a competitor,” said Green.
With competition on his mind, Green made an immediate impression on WSU’s coaches and players.
“Calvin came in with the idea that, ‘hey, I’m going to show everyone that there’s a reason I’m here,’” said Yost. “He stood out from the beginning of Midnight Maneuvers and for a guy like him that’s all about his physical make-up, how hard he’s going to work and how fast he is. Those are all things he excels at.”
It was also apparent that Green’s speed would be an asset for Washington State.
“He did a tremendous job,” said Yost. “What you could see about Calvin right away was he was really quick and very fast. I think that’s not lost on just the coaches. Other players take notice.”
As Green hit the ground running on the gridiron, his transition to Pullman and Washington State was aided by his teammates.
“It was rough; I’m not going to lie,” he said. “It was completely different than Sacramento. The classes were different and everything was different. It took some time to adjust. There were a lot of players that helped me, like Vince [Mayle]. Since we’re both from Sacramento, he helped me out a lot.”
Mayle’s influence on Green came along with assistance from other members of the Cougars’ offensive unit.
“I didn’t know all of the plays at first,” said Green. “It really took me until towards the end of spring ball to learn the plays. I had players on the team that were there to help me like Vince, Connor [Halliday] and Ricky [Galvin].”
Working with teammates on the offensive side of the football also helped Green continue to showcase his competitive spirit.
“It’s a great opportunity because they push each other, so of course they push me,” he said. “That motivates me to push myself to get better and compete with those guys.”
As the spring progressed, Coach Yost and the Cougars really started to notice Green take on a bigger and bigger role as a member of the offensive unit.
“Calvin was able to grade out at a high level very quickly and then continue to work to learn the offense,” said Yost. “When we got to spring ball he had down seventy percent of what he needed to be doing on plays. He then really continued to come on as spring progressed. His best football came at the end of spring as he continued to build on what he knew and as he became more comfortable.”
Comfort was also something that Green started to feel as he garnered more time on the field throughout the spring.
“I just started playing comfortably within myself and I stopped thinking so much,” he said. “I wanted to show them that I’m here to work and that I can play.”
All of Green’s hard work paid off in an opportunity to play in his first spring game with the Cougars.
“It felt great to go up to Spokane and finally put on the Cougar uniform,” said Green. “It was a dream come true.”
That dream came along with a stellar performance at Joe Albi Stadium, catching a game-high eight passes for 101 yards.
“He was able to take a lot of good confidence from the spring game,” said Yost. “He was able to get his hands out away from his body and create a target. He showed tremendous ball skills and how tremendous his hands are.”
Green’s speed was also on showcase months after he first laced up his cleats at the Indoor Practice Facility.
“Once he gets the football, that’s when the fun begins,” said Yost. “And that’s the running back background. He doesn’t expect anyone to ever tackle him. That’s a good trait to have.”
For Green, another great thing to have is support; something the freshman takes to heart.
“My family is really supportive,” said Green. “My grandma for sure, she’s definitely supportive. My brother, my sister, they’re all there for me and they’re all happy.”
The energy Green brings to Washington State’s team is sure to spark more support from fans, coaches, and teammates in the future; a future the Cougars hope to shape with a helping hand from their newest receiver.