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East Bay tailback Greene tough as nails

East Bay’s Chris Greene, slowed by injuries in the past, is proving too hard to keep down.

JOEY KNIGHT | Times

East Bay’s Chris Greene, slowed by injuries in the past, is proving too hard to keep down.

GIBSONTON — East Bay's sturdiest kid, physically and scholastically, possesses more tools than Lowe's.

Assorted nuts and bolts stabilize Chris Greene's surgically mended lower left leg. For a time, a screw was inserted in the same ankle. His red hard hat is emblazoned with a headdress-like design of silver feathers.

But Saturday morning, it was the hammer he was brandishing with blunt-force fervor.

With his team trailing Riverview by eight in the waning minutes, Greene, a 5-foot-9. 190-pound honors student, lined up as the deep tailback in the Indians' hammer package. In front of him, starting linebackers Dre Boykin and Deondre Romeo lined up as fullbacks.

"It's nothing more than just big on big," Indians coach Frank LaRosa said. "We just overload a side. It's just a wall of humanity."

Moments later, the humanity in East Bay's bleachers had become unhinged.

With his dad in the stands eliciting his trademark chant of "feed the beast," Greene scored on a 2-yard run then added the two-point conversion to tie the score at 20. Following two Riverview fumbles in overtime, Greene then clinched things with a 10-yard touchdown run.

All three scores came via the hammer formation.

"It just felt good," Greene said. "Just to come back after everything I've been through — rehab, the hard work, the pain, all that — just to take a breath and sigh."

Until Saturday's victory, postponed from Friday by inclement weather, the beast in question had recently been more fractured than fed.

The youngest of four children born to retired Air Force veterans, Greene broke his right leg as a freshman but recovered in time to earn honorable mention all-county recognition as a middle linebacker in 2011. Switched to offense last fall, he led the Indians in rushing (479 yards) despite essentially missing three whole games.

On his second carry of an Oct. 26 home game against Durant, Greene took a pitch near his own end zone, broke one tackle, tried to make another cut, then felt an awkward sensation in his lower left leg when a tackler hit him low.

"It didn't feel right after that," he said. "I tried to get up but it just didn't feel right."

According to his dad, Albert, Greene had sustained a fractured tibia and fibula and a torn ankle ligament. Surgery was required shortly thereafter, when the swelling subsided.

"I had marked him off for the spring," LaRosa said.

Greene had another time line in mind. Though distraught over his second leg injury in three seasons, he forged ahead, staying atop his grades — he owns a 4.9 unweighted GPA in a schedule featuring two AP courses — and attending three rehab sessions a week.

By the start of spring practice in May, he was back on the field. By the end of it, he was named a team captain by the coaches. Once spring segued into summer, Greene's 40-yard dash time had improved and he had begun "crushing it" in the weight room, LaRosa said.

These days, Greene, whose gravity-friendly frame conjures comparisons with a teenage Emmitt Smith, bench presses 255 pounds and squats 420.

"As cliche as it might sound," LaRosa said, "he got bigger, faster and stronger."

Not to mention hungrier.

The proverbial beast was fed 12 times Saturday, for 44 yards and two decisive touchdowns. The second one made Albert Greene misty-eyed.

"I saw him on the sideline (earlier in the game) and he was kind of down," Albert said. "But he has that warrior spirit, he never gives up. He gives the whole game, gives the whole 60 minutes."

Joey Knight can be reached at jknight@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JoeyHomeTeam.

East Bay tailback Greene tough as nails 09/11/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 11:51pm]

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