BRANDON — The cold doesn't bother S.J. Green anymore. Nowadays, he grabs his heavy coat, boots and gloves and braves the often blustery, overcast days in Canada, boarding the Montreal Metro daily to get to work. An iPod in tow, he takes the 20-minute ride through the underground network of the city, located just across the U.S. border from the Vermont and New York state lines, and home to many French-speaking natives.
It's a far cry from Green's hometown of Brandon, but for now, it's home for the former Brandon High and USF wide receiver standout. Green, 25, is now in his fourth and best season with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes.
Green's professional football career has rapidly changed this year. After he was released by the New York Jets in May after a five-month stint, he returned to Montreal, where he has been since graduating from the University of South Florida in 2007. But in three seasons with the Alouettes, the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder saw minimal playing time and only had 353 receiving yards.
This season, Green, rejuvenated by the experience gained with the Jets, doubled his production with 875 yards and a team-high 10 receiving touchdowns, helping the Alouettes surge to this Sunday's Grey Cup championship game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
"Waiting to get on the field and contribute, I think that's where the success comes from because it's taught me to value the position I'm in and how blessed I am to be where I'm at," Green said. "Even though the (Jets) situation didn't end how I wanted it to, I did learn a lot. I got to watch Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes. I got to watch (Jets receiver) Jerricho Cotchery. I got to watch (Jets running back) LaDainian Tomlinson."
It didn't take long for Green to put his experience into production when he returned to Montreal.
In overtime of the season opener against previous league runner-up Saskatchewan on July 1, Green made a jaw-dropping, one-handed diving catch on a must-have 2-point conversion.
Watch it, and it's hard not to watch again. The video quickly spread online (www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOWV9iZVdEc), even making it on SportsCenter's top 10.
Though it was a catch that many considered the league's play of the year, wide receivers coach Marcus Brady said he wasn't too surprised.
"He actually made a similar catch during training camp, and that's when everybody went nuts, when he did it in training camp," he said. "It just carried over into the first game."
The catch encouraged Green, who said he remembers being a young, wide-eyed rookie in the CFL four years ago. He said he remembers waking up for his first day of training camp in June 2007 and realizing it was 40 degrees outside.
"I woke up and was like, 'Hold on, it's June, and I have to wear a sweater,'" he said.
Now, Green said he likes the cold. And he has picked up on some basic French, too. The hardest part, he said, is being away from his wife, Danielle — whom he met at USF — and their 4-year-old son. Both live in Brandon. They trade traveling back and forth to see each other.
Still close to his roots, Green was in Brandon two weeks ago speaking to Brandon High's football team.
"Ever since he was a sophomore here when he came up, I said that he would be playing on Saturdays and Sundays," said Terrell Williams, Green's position coach at Brandon High. "It's hard work. He's had that mentality when he was in high school … I think that same work ethic started with his family. His parents were always supporting him, and they put the work ethic into him."
As for the future, Green is in the final year of his contract with the Alouettes and said he isn't sure where he'll be next year. For now, he's content in Canada.
"I'm comfortable here right now," he said. "I have fun with it."
Times correspondent Kerry Klecic can be reached at [email protected]