Central Catholic linebacker Chris Green (45), center, was one of the most recruited players in the area until the state ruled that he is ineligible to play this season because of his age and playing ability.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Central Catholic linebacker Chris Green’s college options once seemed endless, with Penn State leading a long list of big-time suitors.
Through no fault of his own, his choices have become more finite.
Since the Ohio High School Athletic Association upheld that Green, 19, was too old — and, really, too good — to play his senior year of high school football, the recruitment of the area’s most touted prospect has entered a strange period of calm.
Green said he has narrowed his focus to offers from Illinois, Indiana, and Cincinnati — three schools that never backed off despite the forced year away from game action. He plans to visit each of them, along with the University of Toledo, in the coming weeks.
“Ever since the ruling that I couldn't play, those three schools have had the most contact with me still,” Green said. “A lot of schools lost contact and haven't talked to me that much. But those schools are the ones that kept talking, kept egging me on to come and come and come. I want to go to a place that wants me as much as I want them.
“If they let me play my senior year, there would be a better chance for me getting an offer from the biggest schools. But no school wants to take that risk. They see me probably not being able to play for a whole year and then coming into a big college, Big Ten football, and it being extra hard to get back up to those standards.”
Green is taking steps to remain in form. This fall, he will do everything for the Irish but take the field on Friday nights — including practice in full pads — and put in additional work on his own. Green also plans to graduate high school in December to get a head start at college.
Yet while Green is confident he will not be slowed, he could be forgiven for cursing his luck.
Last season, his recruitment steadily gained momentum. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker was named defensive player of the year in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference and began to fall hard for Penn State, one of a dozen schools that offered him a scholarship.
Then, in the first of many twists, former Penn State coach Bill O’Brien left for the NFL. Green never connected with new coach James Franklin and his staff.
“Penn State was on the radar for a very long time, and they were my top school,” Green said. “When they switched coaches, I lost contact with their staff. I’ve tried to contact them numerous times, but I never got anything back.”
Still, Green remained a coveted prospect. Ranked among the top 30 players in Ohio by all the major recruiting services, he also got offers from West Virginia, Boston College, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Toledo, and Bowling Green.
“We have him rated in the top half of all recruits that will sign with traditional BCS schools,” said Rivals.com analyst Josh Helmholdt. “I've watched him live since the state title game his sophomore year, and he’s very good. I think he’s right on that border of a regional recruit and a national recruit and may have had a chance [to make that jump] if his momentum would have carried into this offseason.”
Instead, that momentum ran into the state’s high school governing body. Green, who enrolled in kindergarten a year late, turned 19 on June 25 — 36 days after OHSAA’s cut-off date for seniors. In a letter denying an appeal, an OHSAA official said Green’s “athletic abilities and experiences” disqualified him from an age exemption.
In other words, though other players at his position may be physically larger, Green is that good.
“Christopher would not only be competing against students/opponents not of his age or stature, but [he] also would be competing against students at Central Catholic High School, or more appropriately, these students would be competing against him,” wrote OHSAA assistant commissioner Roxanne Price.
In recent weeks, Green attended camps at Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State and said he has a good relationship with their coaching staffs. But he is unsure if any will offer.
For now, Green is thinking about not what could have been but what will be.
“I don’t hold a grudge against any of the schools for not offering me because I [can’t play this year],” he said. “It’s not their fault. But I will definitely be determined to be the best I can.”