Northwestern is averaging 43.3 points and 520 yards per game, all without the services of arguably its top weapon, senior running back Venric Mark. The biggest reason why the Wildcats haven't hiccuped offensively is Mark's replacement, junior Treyvon Green. Entering the season No. 3 on the depth chart, Green finds himself in a featured role after rushing for 353 yards and five touchdowns through the first three contests. He has rebounded from a scary situation in the 2012 preseason that left him briefly questioning if he'd ever play football again. The Mesquite, Texas, native also slimmed down to speed up after recording only 22 carries last fall.
Green's emergence has been so impressive that quarterback Kain Colter wondered after last week's win whether Green should remain the starter when Mark returns from injury.
I caught up with Green earlier this week.
How has your approach changed these past few weeks?
Trevyon Green: I'm just progressing each game, trying to pick up the slack for V (Venric Mark) being out right now. Before I knew about Venric's injury, I'm thinking that he's our guy, I'm going to be a special teams guy, just trying to contribute in any way I can. And then when I found out V wasn't able to go, my mindset kind of changed. I had to prepare myself to be ready to play and contribute to our wins.
Are you still approaching things with that mind-set?
TG: Exactly. After the first three games, my mindset has totally changed. I know I'm not as much of a special teams guy now. I'm more of an offensive guy, getting our run game going. I take that with a lot of pride. Me being our workhorse right now, me and [Mike] Trumpy, I know I have to contribute.
Are you performing in a different way when you get those opportunities now than before?
TG: I would say so. Before, I really wasn't certain whether I'd be in our run game or what exactly my role was. Now I know exactlty what I'm getting into in a game. The way I run the ball, it's a little different because I have to do well. I put pressure on myself to make sure that I perform well enough for our run game to be successful.
Physically, how are you different this year?
TG: My body type has changed. Last year, I was a chunky guy. I was 220. At one point, I was 225, and I wasn't as quick and as fast as I am now. Now I'm down to about 208, I'm a lot quicker, I'm a lot faster, I'm leaner, so all those show up on the field.
How did that change come about?
TG: They initially told me [to lose weight] last year during the season. I wasn't doing it so well. I wasn't working with our nutritionist well enough. That's on me. But after our bowl win, I took it upon myself to make sure I get with the nutritionist and do the proper things to lose the right weight and be ready. I met with her and then my diet changed. I have two salads a day. I'm actually eating 3-4 meals a day. Before, I was only eating one, which is not good. Now I'm heating healthy meals. My snacks aren't junk food any more. And the way I work out now, after practice every day in the preseason, I'll go inside and get on the elliptical for 30 minutes. All that contributed to what you see now.
Have your teammates noticed a difference?
TG: Yeah, they used to call me Lil' Chunky. Now they call me quick and slim, so my teammates definitely notice. It took me a while to notice myself, just because I'm not a cocky guy, so I'm not going to see myself all of a sudden be quicker. But as I study my own film, I see my feet move faster and my speed is a lot faster.
You had a scary situation in the preseason last year. What was that like to go through?
TG: It was tough, but the teammates I have, I know they have my back. My family back home, and even my family here, Coach [Pat Fitzgerald] is like the dad I never had. Growing up, it was just me, my brothers and my mom. Having them back home supporting me, it really helped me get through the situation.
Did you ever think football was over for you?
TG: When we were in the hospital, I thought I was done. Coach Fitz and [running backs coach Matt MacPherson] came and visited me. The first thing I told Coach Mac was, 'I should have kept a lower pad level.' But honestly, I thought I was done. After that injury, I thought I'd be sidelined and my football career would be over. Fortunately, that didn't happen.
When did you know you'd be OK?
TG: That next morning, when I went to go see the doctor. They released me that night I got hurt. Then the next morning, he told me I had a severe concussion and a neck sprain. After that, he told me I'd be out for a little while, but then I'd be able to get back into it.
Do you follow what has been going on with concussions in football? Is it a concern for you, or have you moved beyond it?
TG: I think I'm beyond it. It's a part of the game, so of course it's going to happen and of course you're going to get injured, but you have to keep going. Concussions, obviously right now it's getting a lot of attention because of the new rules and everything. But it's really just all about playing the game and having fun.
The other day Kain said Venric might not get his starting job when he comes back because you're playing so well. What did you think about that?
TG: I took that as a compliment, really. With the season Venric had last year, it's hard to top that or even get on that level. Right now, I'm just trying to do the best I can, but I took it as a huge compliment when our starting quarterback is having that much faith in me to lead the team like I am in running.
What's your relationship like with Venric?
TG: Real close, real close. Him being out, we still get in the film room and study our opponents. It's so funny because Venric and I have the same eye for things. Our vision together, we see things that most running backs don't. When we see it, we take it.
What does he think about the way you're playing?
TG: Actually, the Cal game, on the sideline, he was getting mad at me because I wasn't hitting the hole hard enough. He was telling me, 'C'mon, you've got to see it, it's going to be there, just trust it.' I was like, 'All right,' and then the first play I get the ball, I score. He's been like my little coach. We call him 'Little General' on the team because he tries to lead his troops. He's been really helpful.