Football Journey: BenJarvus Green-Ellis

On Saturdays throughout the season, one Patriots player’s football journey is featured. This week, it is second-year running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Green-Ellis signed with the Patriots as a rookie free agent in May of 2008, initially spent time on the practice squad, and then was promoted to the active roster in October to help fill the void when injuries struck. This season, he made the club out of training camp and has served as a backup (92 yards, 22 carries).

Where his football journey started: “I was 7 or 8 years old. I started playing park ball for a Little League team in New Orleans and have been playing ever since.”

What positions he played: “When I was 7, I was 80 pounds. The required weight was 78. By the time Saturday came around, I somehow found a way to be 78 pounds. The first game I started off at left tackle because I was bigger than everybody, but after the first game they put me at running back and I’ve been there ever since.”

Teams and players he followed growing up: “I didn’t watch too much football growing up. I’d see Barry Sanders at times and hear talk about Walter Payton, but I didn’t watch one particular team or anything like that.”

On people he looks up to or those who have helped him in his career: “My dad. He worked hard to get where he is, and it wasn’t anything that happened overnight. It’s about never getting complacent. I communicate with my parents every day.”

Attending St. Augustine High in New Orleans: “That was a lot of fun. My sophomore year, we had 15 people go Division 1. We just stockpiled. It was an all-boys school and we were always known for good teams – track, basketball, football and band. I also ran track and we won state championships in two years.”

One high school memory that stands out: “I played 60 games, so there were a lot. Maybe one from my sophomore year, when we played [Shreveport] Evangel Christian [Academy] and they hadn’t lost in a long time. Their quarterback was Brock Berlin. We went down there, you saw all the state titles they had, and we smashed them the night after Thanksgiving. That was my first time leaving New Orleans.”

What the crowds were like for high school games: “All our games had big crowds. We averaged about 10,000 to 20,000 people. Our band was 200-230 by itself so we always came deep.”

On his NFL dreams at that time: “I wasn’t much of a big dreamer. I was always taught that whatever you put your mind to, you could do it. I just always assumed that if I worked hard and did what I was supposed to, it would happen. That’s kind of how it went.”

On initially attending Indiana out of high school: “I was offered at LSU, Oklahoma, Florida State, Indiana and Tulsa. I didn’t really want to go to Oklahoma because they were more of a passing team at the time; that was before Adrian Peterson went. I really didn’t want to stay home either because all the running backs in our state were going to LSU, so I just decided to go to Indiana because it gave me a chance to play early. I was on the same Big Ten All-Freshman team with Laurence [Maroney]. After my freshman and sophomore year, I transferred to Ole Miss when Coach [Gerry] DiNardo got fired. It didn’t feel the same once he wasn’t there.”

Sitting out one year after transferring to Ole Miss: “I went in January and learned the offense through spring ball. Sitting out didn’t really bother me because that was the season of the hurricane [Katrina]. Because I wasn’t playing, it gave me a chance to get things done that I needed to at home in New Orleans. Once I started playing, it was about competing at the highest level. We didn’t have any ‘gimme’ teams on the schedule.”

On not getting drafted and signing with the Patriots: “Not getting drafted, it’s the way things work some time. I didn’t have control over that. Talking to my agent and consulting with people, it seemed like this would be one of the better long-term decisions for me. I said ‘all right’ and trusted what they said.”

What he likes about football and being with the Patriots: “Working hard. My dad always told me that whatever you want, you have to work hard for. I’ve been working hard ever since. I like competing, and you have a chance to compete with another player who is at the same level you are at. That’s a good feeling when you beat him on a play."