Wherever the game of football has taken Jacob Green, he’s had a 12th man behind him in support.
It began at the heart of Aggieland, where the fervent fans at Kyle Field witnessed the emergence of a Texas A&M legend. Throughout the 1980s, Seattle residents packed the Kingdome to watch Green and his Seahawks teammates blossom into a competitive NFL squad.
Now, Green has a permanent spot where his accomplishments can be forever celebrated: the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Green, now 59, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Tuesday as a member of its 2016 class.
“This is a huge honor,” Green said. “After playing football here at Texas A&M and high school, and playing professionally in Seattle, it’s a huge honor. I’ve been fortunate enough to go into several halls of fame, but this one, for me, is truly a special honor.
“It’s a privilege to be part of this class and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. I know a lot of guys that I’ve seen go in, and the list is impressive. I’m glad to be a small part of that. I really am truly, truly blessed.”
A native of Houston, Green made a living as a quarterback’s nightmare. During his final year at Texas A&M in 1979, he recorded 20 sacks, a school record that still stands. In three years with the Aggies he totaled 37 sacks, good for second all-time in program history.
His ability to disrupt the backfield earned him the 10th overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft for an upstart Seattle Seahawks team still developing an identity after four playoff-less seasons following its inception into the league.
It proved to be a long-term home for the talented defensive end, as he remained with the team until 1992. By then, Seattle had made the playoffs four times, won a division title and even reached the AFC Championship in 1983.
By the time he retired in 1993, he had amassed 97.5 career sacks — 116, if his two seasons before sacks were recorded are counted. He was inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor in 1995, confirming his status as one of the greatest defensive players to wear a Seattle uniform.
“Growing up as a small kid, getting to play football and be successful, and live the dream of going to the NFL and playing for an organization like the Seahawks, it was a dream come true,” Green said.
For thousands of high school football players over the years, college recruitment is one of the most stressful decisions they face in their lives. One scribble of ink on a letter of intent can dictate the entire future of an 18-year-old. And when the offers from colleges are spilling in every day, having to choose just one is an arduous task.
But for Green, a standout senior from Kashmere High School in Houston, the choice was easy. He had offers on the table from plenty of powerhouse programs, including Texas, USC, UCLA and Penn State. But one campus always resonated to him, and it was a mere hour and 45 minutes away in College Station.
“Texas A&M was one of the schools that I used to watch growing up,” Green said. “The way they treated you when you came down was like family.”
After a pair of 8-4 seasons with Aggies, the latter of which saw head coach Emory Bellard resign midseason, Green erupted in 1979 to become one of the most feared defenders in college football. He set a school record with 20 sacks in a season, along with 134 tackles.
Green came to Waco on Sept. 15, 1979 for Texas A&M’s game against Baylor, and left with a historic 22-tackle, four-sack performance against the Bears. Both numbers were school records at the time.
The Aggies lost the game, 17-7, and went on to finish the season 6-5. But Green’s abilities had not gone without notice, as he was named an All-American and a projected first-round NFL draft pick.
He was soon to headed off to the pros, but wouldn’t soon forget the coaches that groomed into a NFL-caliber defender while he was in college. It began with offensive line coach Dan LaGrasta, who recruited Green and remained close to his family up until his death in 2009, along with Bellard and former defensive coach Paul Register.
And of course, there was that irresistible 12th Man.
“The 12th man was like no other. It was a win-win for me,” Green said. “I was committed the first time I came down. I could hear the crowd, and it was somewhere I knew I wanted to be.”
In 1980, the Seattle Seahawks were hardly the annual NFC force they are today. No Russell Wilson. No Beast Mode. No Legion of Boom.
Instead, they were a modest, up-and-coming expansion franchise in the AFC that had played its inaugural season four years prior, coming to life in 1976 after a venture by a group of prominent Seattle businesses led by retail giant Nordstrom. They had no playoff appearances, but did show some promise after back-to-back 9-7 seasons, highlighted by the emergence of future Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent.
Seattle was so impressed with Green’s talent coming out of Texas A&M that they traded the No. 16 pick and a third-round selection to jump to No. 10 and grab the Aggies’ powerful defensive end.
The Seahawks opened the 1980 season in promising fashion, going 4-3 through their first seven games. But they hit the skids thereafter, losing every game the rest of the way to finish 4-12.
Seattle went 6-10 the following season for another dead-last finish in the AFC West, then went 4-5 during the strike-shortened 1982 season, prompting general manager Mike McCormack to bring in a new head coach — Chuck Knox.
“Chuck was a player’s coach,” Green said. “He’s a lot like (current Seahawks head coach) Pete Carroll, professionally. He gave his players respect, he treated you like men. He was probably the modern-day Pete Carroll back in the day. Your players love you and they go out there and play hard for you.”
Knox remained as Seattle’s head coach over the next nine years, and the Seahawks flourished under him. They finished second in the AFC West in 1983 and ’84, and didn’t win fewer than seven games under his tenure.
The team reached its playoff peak of the decade in 1983, defeating the Broncos in the AFC Wild Card game and then edging the Miami Dolphins in the divisional round. That pitted Seattle against the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC Championship, adding fuel to an already heated AFC rivalry.
“It was as big as it got in the NFL,” Green said. “The Raiders, the bad boys from the West Coast against the Seahawks, a young franchise from the northwest. We would battle. We would go down there and there would be 100,000 in the stadium in L.A. for playoff games. When then they came up we’d sell out 65,000 in the Kingdome. It was probably one of the loudest places you could play in at that time.”
Led by a two-touchdown, 154-yard rushing effort from Marcus Allen, the Raiders stormed past the Seahawks, 30-14, en route to a Super Bowl title.
Green was a crucial part of the Seahawks’ payback the following season, amassing 2½ sacks in a playoff rematch between the two teams. This time, Seattle came out on top, 13-7.
“It’s amazing the relationships that you build playing against guys, then seeing those same guys, some that are in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame,” Green said. “There’s no question that the Raiders were our biggest rivals.”
The Seahawks lost the following week to Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in the divisional round. They wouldn’t win another playoff game until 2005.
But it was clear that Green had found his calling in the NFL. He recorded a career-high 16 sacks in 1983 and followed it up with 12 or more sacks over the next three years. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1986 and ’87.
His defensive statistics slowly diminished during the late 1980s, aside from a 12.5-sack total in 1990. But he remained a staple of the Seahawks’ defense for the entirety of a decade, starting 176 of his 180 games in his career. He retired in 1992 after a two-game stint with the San Francisco 49ers.
“To be at one place for as long as I was — 13 years — you don’t see it as much anymore,” Green said. “My family grew up there, all three of my daughters were born there. My wife and I stayed there. That whole organization — the franchise and the community — was a great place to raise kids and be part of.”
Back to College Station
Green is long removed from the football field as a player, but his impact on student-athletes continues to this day.
He currently works as the Vice President of Major Gifts and Endowments for the 12th Man Foundation, which serves to develop funding to support scholarships for student-athletes at Texas A&M.
“I get to work with a lot of student-athletes,” Green said. “I see them at all our football games, and basketball and baseball. I get a chance to see all our kids. More than anything, we’re providing scholarships for our student-athletes. That’s what’s important.”
His ties to the Aggies have only grown stronger over the years. His three daughters attended the school, two of which played soccer. His son-in-law, Red Bryant, played football at Texas A&M and went even further in following Green’s footsteps by playing for the Seahawks from 2008-13, winning a Super Bowl in the process. He currently plays for the Arizona Cardinals.
Green also hosts two golf tournaments each year in Seattle and Houston. The Jacob Green Charity Golf Classic in Seattle, now in its 28th year, has raised almost $4 million in cancer research.
His Houston tournament is partnered with Positive Coaching Alliance, which helps fund after-school programs for at-risk youths. The event is in its 17th year.
“It’s a chance to raise to kids for after-school programs and give them something to take them off the streets and learn, and go and do something that will help them down the road,” Green said.
Nowadays, Green’s former team in Seattle is making noise annually in the NFL. Often literally — Seahawks fans currently hold the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd noise at 137.6 decibels, just under the average noise generated by jet engine.
More importantly, the team brought home the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in 2013. They reached the Big Game again the next year, but lost to the New England Patriots. Regardless, the Seahawks have emerged as one of the most popular and successful NFL teams over the past decade, having reached the playoffs 10 times since 2003 with seven NFC West titles.
And yet, Green is still revered by the franchise. He was inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor in 1995, leaving his name to forever be etched among the sellout seats of CenturyLink Field.
“They include me on everything, and that’s a way of them telling me ‘thank you’ for everything, and I’m telling them, ‘thank you’ for the things that they’ve done for me,” Green said. “It’s a huge honor to be able to do that.”