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OL trades papers for pigskins

Cornell Green moves from Times newsprint worker to Bucs starter.

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 8, 2002

TAMPA -- There's an old adage that the key to success is to leave the newspaper business, and offensive lineman Cornell Green is another shining example.

Green, who will start for the Bucs on Sunday against the Saints, likely won't lose perspective of his good fortune nor forget the job he had at the St. Petersburg Times printing plant in the fall of 1999 after the Falcons waived him.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder sorted papers to pay his bills.

"I needed to get some money in my pocket," he said. "When you have to get up early in the morning and see 350,000 papers and know that you have to unload them and stack them, trust me, it's (humbling). A real grind."

Green, a St. Petersburg native who attended Lakewood High, has done more than put his Times' worker badge away. He has a chance to build his empire.

Green never has started an NFL game. Green, 28, never has played in an NFL game. Since 1999, Green has had stops with the Falcons, Jets and Dolphins but mostly has been inactive on game day. When active, he never played.

"Yup, that's true, and I think about that every day," he said. "But it's like this, I've been wanting this for a long time, and I have to stay grounded. I'm excited, don't get me wrong, but I have to be humble with it."

Green is as Florida as anyone gets. He has always lived in St. Petersburg and was a standout lineman at Lakewood. Recruited by Central Florida to play defensive line, Green was moved to offensive line during his redshirt season, then spent four years blocking for star quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

After going undrafted, Green bounced around the NFL as a project and one of his stops was in New York, when Bucs line coach Bill Muir was there. In training camp, Green was with the Dolphins when the Bucs came calling.

"It was crazy," said Green, who thought he was going to get cut. "The dude called me in the office, and I thought, 'Here we go again.' He told me everything that went down and it was mind boggling how fast your life can be changed, just like that."

But Green begins his NFL career as a starter knowing he displaced Kenyatta Walker, last year's first-round pick. He also knows neither the Bucs nor Walker have given up hope that the former Florida Gator will return.

"I'm the starter," Green said, "but it's not like I'm going to relax now that I'm the starter."

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