Five-star running backs are hard to find. Landing them is even harder. Michigan's coaches were the difference for Richmond (Va.) Hermitage five-star Derrick Green, Hermitage head coach Patrick Kane said recently, but U-M running backs coach Fred Jackson credited someone else - at least in part.
"His family played a big role because after he told me a month ago at least that he was coming to Michigan, all these other places started recruiting the crap out of them," Jackson said. "His mom was letting the kid listen, but in her mind, that kid gave me his word. When he gave me his word, that wasn't about to change regardless what happened.
"There were so many things telling him come to Michigan. A coach from Tennessee came up there and had Michigan plates on his rental car. There's another story about him saying prayers involving the hats in his closet. But the family was so tight, they had raised this kid well enough that they told him when you tell somebody your word, that's your bond."
They all felt it, head coach Patrick Kane said.
"I was very impressed when the Michigan coaches came through," he said. "It was a family decision, and I think they made a great choice with what they were comfortable with. There are so many great programs out there and he was very fortunate to have a lot of great choices. He narrowed it down to the one he was most comfortable with, and I think he did a great job."
Head coach Brady Hoke and his staff, too, did their part in being relentless on the recruiting trail. Jackson traveled to Virginia five times himself, and Hoke, Jerry Montgomery and Al Borges were just a few of the others involved.
What they're getting is a back with a rare combination of speed and power, Kane said. Green became a more valuable option out of the backfield as a senior, too, and his stats were more impressive considering he sat in several late quarters of Hermitage blowouts.
"He's a battering ram guy," Jackson said. "If you looked at [former U-M back] Chris Perry, just imagine that's how Derrick Green looks. He's 235 pounds right now, wide shoulders, put together. You hit him, you feel like you're hitting a rock.
"He was 260 and muscled down. He's a rock. He can make cuts, can run over you and - according to some guys at the U.S. Army game - he can also run away from you. Add it all together and you've got a pretty good football player."
The university recruits itself to an extent, Jackson added, but he issued Green a challenge - find someone else more qualified to coach him.
Green did his homework. He called friends and opponents of Jackson's, including former OSU running back Eddie George.
"Everybody in the country was recruiting the kid," Jackson said. "What I sold Derrick on more than anything else was my ability to coach him and make him better, to take him somewhere he couldn't take himself. He probably visited 15 schools, but he was sold on the fact I could coach him, make him a better football player."
Jackson did some homework of his own in calling fellow coaches in the profession. They said the same thing about Green - he's a big back who can play small. When he recruited former All-Big Ten back Anthony Thomas, Jackson said, he knew he was getting a special back because he saw him do things at that size nobody else could. Perry was also in that category, a high hurdler, and Green fits the bill with his ability to cut.
He did his part to land him, but he got a nice assist from Green's family.
"That family was tight knit. You couldn't pry them with anything," he said. "They said, 'when you tell Coach Jackson you're coming to Michigan, 'we're all coming to Michigan. They never wavered - not to me."