KISSIMMEE — It was written that he had tree trunks for thighs, winged feet and the legs of a racehorse.
In eighth grade at Meadowlawn, he ran the 100-yard dash in 10.4 seconds.
A star at St. Petersburg High, he scored all but one of his team’s touchdowns as a junior varsity running back, then transitioned to varsity and became one of the area’s best wide receivers.
He led his team to the state championship game in 1984, and along the way scored touchdowns — one for 99 yards, and two weeks after that one for 52, and two weeks after that one for 63.
“All I need is a little edge to turn the corner,” he told the newspaper back then, “and I’m gone.”
Almost three decades later, much of that story is still so very familiar to Vader Green. But it’s no longer his.
Ryan Green’s story is, for the record and according to his father, the far better one. “He’s better than I ever was,” Vader said.
A new one, the best yet, gets written tonight at Tropicana Field, a short sprint from his family’s St. Petersburg home where the St. Petersburg Catholic senior will play for Team Nitro in the Under Armour All-American Game.
Green will be playing for the first time since a shoulder injury ended his senior season after one game. (As a junior he ran for 1,100 yards and had 19 total touchdowns.)
Dozens of friends and family will celebrate Ryan’s high school football career. Many will wear T-shirts with his picture on the front and Team Green on the back.
“It’s going to be great,” Ryan said. “This is where I wanted my high school career to end. It’s going to be crazy.”
Those watching in person or live on ESPN will include dozens of friends and family — older brother Brandon (also a terrific athlete) and older sister Ashley, who Ryan said will be his PR person when he makes it big.
Garlynn Boyd, who runs the Lightning Bolt Youth Sports Academy in St. Petersburg, will be watching.
When Vader first signed Ryan up for football up at age 5, he wanted nothing to do with it.
The next year, Ryan ran track for the first time, and Boyd helped light his competitive fire, which continues to run hotter than a furnace even today.
The boy outran everyone around and was ready for football the next season, scoring something like 40 touchdowns.
“It triggered something,” Boyd said, because that’s what running faster than the other neighborhood kids sometimes does.
Andre Hudson, founder of Pro Builder Fitness Inc. and a renowned speed trainer in St. Petersburg, will be watching.
He remembers the day a car driven by Green’s mother, Lalita, pulled up and Vader leaned out the passenger-side window and started talking to him about some personal training.
They chatted 15 minutes as Ryan sat in the backseat. The sixth-grader said nothing, didn’t even look at Hudson until the conversation turned to football.
Hudson, who played at Clearwater, told Vader he remembered the great things he did in high school, and the dad looked to the back seat, then back to Hudson.
“Ryan thinks he’s going to break all my records,” Vader said.
The boy looked up, and matter-of-factly said, “I am.”
“He’s not a talker,” Hudson said, “but he comes out here and smokes the hell out of everyone who is.”
And, of course, Vader and Lalita will be watching.
Their work as parents really cannot be overstated, and everyone who praises Ryan makes a point to single them out. Ryan grew into a heck of a football and basketball player, but he turned into a pretty good person as well.
“The real deal, man,” said his high school coach, Steve Dudley.
Ryan is polite and generous, one time returning from a camp in Oregon and giving his swag to friends. He can be sensitive — making a college decision was especially hard, for fear of upsetting those who pursued him — and a little spoiled, but his parents rarely remember a time they were ever worried.
The most anguish he ever caused may have been the long hours he made them watch The Crocodile Hunter and The Land Before Time movies.
“Over and over,’’ Vader said.
This is the part of the story Lalita really wants you to know.
“Football doesn’t define him,” she said. And if he stopped playing today he wouldn’t lose a single friend or change a bit.
And sure, the son inherited a good portion of his skill through genetics, but the rest of it? The hardest part of it, the hours spent dragging 70-pound tires through a park and lifting weights and carrying another person up a flight of stairs just to make himself stronger and faster?
“That had nothing to do with genetics,” Vader said. “No one gave Ryan anything.”
Except for opportunities. And Vader made sure Ryan surrounded himself with the right people, didn’t slip up and become another high school football star turned sad footnote.
That was never going to be Ryan’s story.
And there’s more to come. After tonight, he will begin preparing for college. In the summer, he’ll head off to Florida State.
“Then,” said Vader, “I’ll be able to breathe.”