Willie Green aka “Smoke” was the best football player to come out of Osceola County and one of the best to ever come out of the state of Florida. In 1998, Smoke ran for 2,659 yards and 35 touchdowns. Most notably, he racked up 183 yards and 3 touchdowns in a title clinching game, leading the Osceola Kowboys to their first ever State Championship title. That same year he was voted Mr. Fla Football and became one of the most sought after recruits in the country. His career total consists of 107 touchdowns placing him ahead of Emmitt Smith for number one in the state’s history, and finished with 7,947 yards putting him behind only Emmitt Smith for the Florida record and 20th all-time in the country. As former Springfield Rutherford coach Steve Hardin said before their match up in a 1999 playoff game “I’ve coached for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of great ones, and I’ve coached against Emmitt Smith. I’d have to say that Green is up there with the best. Emmitt is the comparison I made the first time I saw him, and that stands up today”.
Along with being an outstanding athlete, Green was a model student, maintaining a 3.3 GPA throughout his high school days. His father, Smokey Green, was an outstanding high school football player, but after graduation he turned to the streets and got involved in drugs. Because of this the younger Green often spoke out against those type of things.
With hopes of pro status Smoke was definitely ready to take his football career to its greatest heights. After graduation he was awarded a full scholarship and went on to play for Steve Spurrier at the University Of Florida. Smoke was well on his way to the top; however due to a series of unfortunate football injuries his career in college never reached the greatness that most people expected. It is then, most people suspect, that Green began his involvement in the drug trade. According to authorities, Green began trafficking large amounts of cocaine throughout the state of Florida. In the 2 years after he left The University of Florida, he was arrested several times on multiple drug offenses. In 2004, he was arrested for attempted 1st degree murder which was the result of a dispute he had with a man he believed had stolen drugs from him. Eventually those charges were reduced, but Green’s legal troubles were far from over. In 2005, Green was pulled over by Florida State troopers and police recovered a large amount of cocaine. The case was then turned over to the federal government.
In 2006, Green was indicted on charges of “conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than SO grams of cocaine base”. In a building less than 2 miles east of Ben Hill Stadium in Gainesville, where Green ran for 189 yards and 3 TD’s the night Osceola High won the state title, Green was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
The Joint Magazine spoke to Willie Green. Here’s what he had to say in his own words:
“Coming from an environment where I saw many friends and family go in and out of prison, I never thought I would find myself experiencing life from this side. As much as I have hated my poor decision making, I am grateful for this experience because I’ve had time to look over my life and re-evaluate things. Being in prison has allowed me to become the man that I was created to be. And that is a man that is willing to extend a helping hand to a brother in need. What I mean by that is, I am now a keeper of my brothers. Whatever is necessary to uplift my community in a positive way and motivate our kids to be the best individuals possible, is what my life is all about. As much as I wish that all of our kids can be athletes I know that’s not the case. I want to be a leader in my community and provide opportunities for our kids to find their talents in whatever it is God has in store for them.
I also would like to help our sisters because they are the ones being left behind while men like myself are away with minimum mandatory sentences. I know if we can help change these 2 things, our communities will be better off because men will no longer believe that the streets and corners are the only places for us to take care of our households. Prison has opened my eyes and continues to do so until the day I am released.
My communication with my former teammates from the University has been limited. I have only kept in touch with about 5 of them, but because of my sentencing it has been very limited. Each of them are playing in the NFL and due to my actions in the streets The U.S Marshall tried to tie their names to my case as if they were funding my drug dealing activities. Also, another teammate of mine was arrested just before me, Major Parker, while he was coaching the University Basketball team as an assistant under Coach Billy Donovan which only made matters worse for athletes that got into trouble during that time. So because of the perception that was being cast over any guys that I was directly tied to, I only kept limited contact with them because conspiracy charges have a very long and far reach.
The only coach that I have cared to stay in touch with was Coach Mike Locksley because he understood me better than the other coaches. That goes back to him recruiting me while I was in high school while he was the running backs coach for the University of Maryland; where he also coached as offensive coordinator. I haven’t been in contact with him since early on in my arresting stages because of his position and me not wanting to jeopardize any of that. I will most definitely be reaching out to him after my release because I believe that I owe him for the love he showed me. I also stay in contact with many members from my high school coaching staff and other facility members. I deal with them much more because my ties to them started before my criminal behavior so my relationship with them is much different.
My message to the kids runs deep because I believe that my story and situation is something that they can learn from. The biggest lessoned to be learned from my story is that no matter how good you are while playing sports in high school, that doesn’t guarantee him or her a key to the professional levels of any sport. No matter how gifted a child is in sports, academics should ALWAYS be the top priority. A child should use his or her talents to get them a full scholarship and once they obtain that, they should take full advantage of that opportunity because less than 1% of student athletes make it to the pros. I blew a great opportunity and I want to do all I can to prevent another child from doing the same thing. I can relate to kids growing up in poverty. From a positive standpoint, kids should take full advantage of the opportunities that their talents can provide them, especially, when it comes to gaining acceptance to top tier universities that under normal circumstances would be off limits because our families can’t afford the cost to enroll.
When it comes to plans that I have in mind for the future, there are too many to count. One project in general that I have in mind is to start a community based talent show so that each of our kids, can learn or practice their craft, no matter what that might be. Some kids that aren’t athletes or performers tend to be left by the waste side, but not with my plan, because talents come in many shapes and forms. I plan to provide opportunities to our kids and my plan will help keep our kids active and off the streets where the negative things tend to wait. I also believe that more kids would be willing to express their talents and gifts if there are no longer overlooked.
The lesson that I’ve learned from the past eight years is that even when things seem at its worst, it may be the best time for an individual to do some soul searching. Prison is made out to be a bad place for bad people, but I believe prison is a rest stop for individual to get their mind focused on being positive and better individuals in life. I was told that prison is “what you make of it” and I find that to be true because you can either be made or broken by this environment. Prison is a place for an individual to grow up and learn on the fly because there aren’t any teachers here. As much as I would like to say I wish I would have never came to prison, I won’t because this environment has been a humbling experience. I have had the opportunity to meet some really good brothers that taught me about life and how I viewed things. The greatest lesson that I have learned from prison is to be responsible for my own actions and begin accepting responsibility for them without passing blame or seeking pity for how my life is. I have done a lot of growing up in prison and I have a lot of growing to do to become the best father and person I can be to all that I come in contact with. With that being said, I have learned to turn negative situations into positive and apply positive information to my growth to becoming positive and rational as I go through life”.
The Joint Magazine would like to give special thanks to Willie and wish him well as he nears the end of his sentence. Mistakes don’t make us who we are. It’s what we do after those mistakes that define us as a person. We will keep you in our thoughts and keep your family in our thoughts as well. And That’s The Joint!!!!