- Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff Writer
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The first thing ESPN Junior 300 linebacker Chris Green (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic) will tell anyone about himself is how much he loves to dance and sing. That he does a mean Ray Charles impression on the piano. That Michael Jackson was a big influence on his interest in music.
He talks about the juxtaposition and hilarity of being a big, burly linebacker in his high school’s glee club. He also gets a laugh out of the fact he’s the guy in his school’s “Lucky the Leprechaun” mascot suit for volleyball and basketball.
He doesn’t mention that he attended seven different schools from kindergarten to eighth grade, or that he had a rough childhood.
Green glosses over the fact his mother has been in prison since last November for identity theft. For a short period, he was unsure of where he would live.
“I like to keep it positive. Everyone has a story or situation, and I think mine is minor to what it could be,” said Green, who changed schools seven times between kindergarten and eighth grade. “Some people don’t have moms or dads or people that would take them into their house. My mom would always tell me that things could be worse.”
Before Green’s mother went to prison, she made sure he would have a safe home because staying with his father wasn’t an option. The first choice was Dawn Taylor, Green’s grade school counselor. Taylor had grown close with Green, but it ultimately didn't work out.
Taylor then recommended her brother-in-law and his wife, Jeff and Ginger Duhaime, who live roughly 20 miles outside of Toledo in Perrysburg.
Green, his mother and the Duhaimes sat down and spoke about what this all meant. That Chris could be a part of the Duhaime family, but there were expectations to be met.
“We have a 10-year-old son, so that was the first question. ... We wanted to make sure Chris was going to be a good role model,” Ginger said. “We welcomed him into our home because he’s a really good kid and if you meet him, you’ll know. He’s outgoing, fun, silly, bright, affectionate.”
Everyone agreed that moving in with the Duhaimes was the best plan for Chris and his future. That meant moving to their home in Perrysburg, farther away from Toledo Central Catholic, the school he grew to love.
But because he was part of the family now, he would be treated as such. The Duhaimes made sure he would still attend the same school to keep some consistency in his life.
The longer he was with the family, the closer they became and the more that Ginger and Jeff were amazed by his outlook on life and his care for others.
“He has a very good sense for right vs. wrong, even though he should have more experience with wrong and justifying that as right. I drive him to school every day and there is sometimes a homeless man we pass on the way,” Ginger said. “One day Chris was talking aloud and I asked him what he was saying. He told me he was praying for the homeless man, and that speaks to his compassion and character.”
Green recognizes the sacrifice the Duhaimes have made to bring him into their home. He refers to them as his second family, but also knows they aren’t trying to replace his mom or dad. They are trying to fill the gaps and ensure he has a normal childhood. The transition has been a welcomed, positive change, but it hasn’t always been easy.
Naturally there are times when he misses his mother and wishes she could still watch him play. He reflects on her presence at all his games and how she used to drive him to practice.
Mother’s Day, his birthday and his team’s championship game have been the most difficult days so far. He calls them his breakdowns, when he lets the sadness take over the positive.
Although his mother is unable to watch him play, there is no doubt she is proud of his accomplishments. He currently holds offers from Bowling Green, Kentucky, Toledo and Western Michigan and is starting to pick up major interest from other programs.
“I hope that he is serving as a role model for people,” Ginger said. “I’m excited for him to get this kind of attention, because maybe it will cause another kid that grew up like Chris to make better choices.”
Green knows that it’s not goodbye with his mother, either. Because of the scholarship offers, it won’t be her last chance to watch him play. On good behavior, she would be released in July 2014. But she also has asked that the Duhaimes see him through to his transition into college.
While many kids his age would dwell on the bad breaks, Green pushes forward and keeps reminding himself that things could be worse.
487dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert