By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

It would be easy for anyone to dismiss Brandon Green off into the pile of “high motor” guys. You know, the kind of guys who plays hard, but really doesn’t have much in the way of discernible skills or athleticism.

Green certainly falls into the category of high motor, but it’s the way he fuels his engine that makes his story one of perseverance and persistence. Green was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 10, throwing a serious wrench into his plans to be a professional football player.

Yet, here Green is, diabetes and all, playing defensive end for the Rams. At 6-feet-3, 264 pounds, Green is smaller than most defensive ends so he is forced to get by on effort. Even Coach Mike Martz was ready to brand Green with the now dreaded high motor category, but after seeing Green’s performance early in camp, realized there is more to Green than just effort.

“When we brought Brandon in, we felt like that was the type of guy we were getting, but I think he is probably a little more athletic than what we anticipated,” Martz said. “In discussions on him as a staff, we have all been very pleased so far.”

The fact that any coaching staff has a chance to be impressed with Green is amazing in itself. After learning that he was diabetic, Green was forced to begin finding ways to continue playing sports, but keep his blood sugar level at a reasonable and healthy level.

Playing football at Industrial High in Vanderbilt, Texas, Green was a four-year starter, playing defensive end and tight end. Pulling double duty took a serious toll on Green, making it difficult for him to find time to recuperate and control his diabetes.

In the years following the diagnosis, Green spent time experimenting with a variety of things to control his blood sugar level.

“High school was a bit different because I never came off the field,” Green said. “It’s easier when you are just on defense and you come off the field and take a blood sugar test. You can get ready for the next series. I would say in college is when I started to hone in on it and realize how important it is not just for during the game, but the night before and a couple nights before because your body recovers so much better when you have good blood sugars. That really helped my performance.”

Before Green headed off to Rice University, he led Industrial High to a 41-5 record and three district titles. Once he joined up with the Owls, Green started to find the best ways to keep his body fueled up.

While there were plenty of medical advancements being made that could help Green, he had by then embraced a certain way of handling his diabetes. Those solutions included a steady diet of syringes, Gatorade and granola. On his down time, Green took the opportunity to learn his beloved country music on the guitar. The sounds of George Strait, Charlie Robinson and Pat Greene helped keep Green grounded and entertained between classes, practices and shots.
Green estimates that it wasn’t until about midway through his time at Rice that he truly began to understand how to maintain his blood sugar.

“I have gotten it down pretty good now,” Green said. “I am still kind of old school. I know the pumps are real popular right now, but I have got my shots. I feel like I have it down pretty good so it’s hard to change. It took me quite a few years. I would say in college I really started to get it under control.”

Green got it down so well that he was able to play for the Owls without many worries. Maintaining his energy helped him become Rice’s career sack leader with 25 and earn a spot in the NFL Draft.

Jacksonville took Green in the sixth round (No. 176 overall) of the 2003 Draft. Green arrived to Jaguars’ camp with high hopes of making the team and making an impact right away.

He got off to a solid start in training camp and landed a roster spot. When a teammate fell on Green’s leg during practice, he thought nothing of it. After all, it didn’t hurt that bad and he had other medical issues to worry about. Green continued to play on the leg, thinking that any pain was just tendonitis.

It wasn’t until about three weeks later that Green discovered the injury was far worse. Of course, it was easy to realize the injury was more serious when the bone in his knee split in half.

“We thought it was tendonitis so we kept working, kept playing on it and then three weeks into the season it went ahead and split all the way through so I had to sit out that season,” Green said.

It was the kind of injury nobody wants, especially someone who already has a red flag next to his name on scouting reports in the medical department. Green spent the offseason with no real rehabilitation plan. All he could do was sit around and wait for the bone to heal itself.

Heading into his second season with Jacksonville last year, Green tried to push himself to return in time for camp so that he could prove himself to the Jaguars. Green finally achieved his goal of playing for Jacksonville, appearing in three games and making a pair of solo tackles.

But the injury wasn’t fully healed and he aggravated it against Kansas City on Oct. 24. Two days later, he found himself back on injured reserve with the knowledge that his time in Jacksonville might be ending soon.

Green was right as the Jaguars gave him his release soon after the draft. Green wasn’t sure who to be mad at, himself or the team, but ultimately he could only point the finger at the man in the mirror.

“It’s probably one of the first times that I have ever felt like I let somebody down,” Green said. “I know there are a lot of different feelings you can get. You can have frustration or anger towards them, but I just kind of felt like maybe I didn’t do my job or do as well as I could have done. I guess you can’t help it if your knee cracks in half. It was disappointing for me. I felt like there were some unfinished things there that I didn’t get to do.”

The one point of contention Green had with the Jaguars was the timing of his release. Green felt that the closer to the draft he was released would lessen his chances of landing with a new team anytime soon. He was wrong.

St. Louis moved quick to bring Green into the mix, signing him on May 6. With the leg injury behind him, Green felt like a new man with a new chance to show what he could do.

The days of worrying only about his diabetes returned, a welcome change for Green. He has finally got a grasp on how to handle the diabetes. On any given day, Green estimates that he tests his blood about 15 to 20 times to see where his blood sugar level is at.

If that level gets to low, Green is libel to have a hypoglycemic episode, which means that the blood sugar level drops too low to provide energy for the body’s activities and can lead to unconsciousness.

With that in mind, Green has developed a series of methods to keep his blood sugar level where it needs to be. Generally, the key to Green’s methods are food or drinks that contain high levels of glucose that will keep the blood sugar levels where they need to be. That’s where the Gatorade, energy drinks and granola come into play.

Green has it down to such a science that he knows the carbohydrate counts on almost everything he puts in his body. He even has different plans for game days and practices, accounting for the added adrenaline in his body on a game day.

One thing Green won’t do is take an injection on a game day like other athletes with the same condition have been known to do.

“I never take an injection in a game,” Green said. “I basically manage it through Gatorade. We also have energy drinks. Sometimes I don’t want to drink as many Gatorades as usual, so those energy drinks have like 79 carbohydrates, which is quite a bit compared to Gatorade, which is probably about 25, 30 at the most. I try to regulate it with that. I don’t ever take shots out there.”

Green hopes that this season he will get a chance to be delivering shots to opposing quarterbacks. With his health the best it has been in his time in the league and his diabetes being managed well, Green has had an impressive start to training camp.

With a lack of depth at defensive end, Green provides the kind of energy that could land him a spot on the roster and the rotation. Just don’t call him a high motor guy.

“The main thing to me is I want to be a good technician in the things I do, but I would hate for somebody to say that I wasn’t giving a good effort out there,” Green said. “That’s the main thing I try to do is make sure I am giving everything I can. Sometimes you can get labeled as that and they think you are not a good athlete. A high motor guy is seen as a bad athlete. I would like people to say that I am a well-rounded athlete. I’d like to be someone people can depend on to stop the run and the pass. I want to be somebody who gets where he needs to be by putting in as much effort as possible.”

As long as Green has the right fuel in the tank, he will do everything he can to make sure that motor keeps running.