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Greene has bounced back nicely from rough times

Shonn Greene #23 of the New York Jets

Shonn Greene #23 of the New York Jets runs for a 39-yard touchdown in the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals. (January 9, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -  Shonn Greene was besieged by television cameras and microphones the moment he entered the Jets' locker room.

After months of waiting in the background behind Thomas Jones, the rookie running back has stepped into the limelight. And the world wants to hear what he has to say.

Expect to see much more of the 24-year-old - who had his coming-out party last Saturday against Cincinnati, running for 135 yards and a touchdown - this weekend when the Jets face San Diego in the divisional round.

Though Greene may be Jones' successor, his journey to the NFL is a cautionary tale; a lesson in how quickly a uniform can be taken away, how quickly a promising career can come to an end.

He was declared academically ineligible at Iowa in 2007 and lost his athletic scholarship. He later enrolled at Kirkwood CC and worked at McGregor's Furniture in Coralville, Iowa, to pay his tuition.

He moved, loaded and delivered furniture, all for $8 an hour.

"It was a very humbling experience," Greene said. "I was in school doing what I loved to do and all of a sudden, that was taken away from me."

But he eventually got a second chance. He improved his grades, returned to Iowa in 2008 and won the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back.

The Jets traded up to select Greene with the 65th overall pick in the 2009 draft. The organization saw a hard-nosed, game-changing back; a durable bulldozer who picks up speed after contact.

And so far, he hasn't disappointed. "A lot of rookies hit that rookie wall at some point in the year but he got better and better and better," running back Leon Washington said.

Greene became more involved in the offense after Washington's season-ending leg injury. Greene emerged as the star last week, breaking a 39-yard touchdown run against the Bengals.

"I've never seen daylight like that since I've been in the NFL - which is not very long," he said. "So as soon as I saw that, I took off. I couldn't wait to get to the end zone."

Greene credits Jones for his development. "Every little thing he does, I pick at and learn from," he said. "He's pretty much taught me everything I do from this point out."

Greene is also thankful for his time at McGregor's and no matter how far his career may take him, Greene will forever think back to his days on that warehouse floor.

"All of the time," he said. "That's one of the reasons I'm here right now."

With Tom Rock

New York Sports