Cornell Green (defensive back)

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For the former offensive tackle, see Cornell Green.
Cornell Green
No. 34
Position: Cornerback / Safety
Personal information
Date of birth: (1940-02-10) February 10, 1940 (age 75)
Place of birth: Oklahoma City, OK
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 208 lb (94 kg)
Career information
High school: El Cerrito (CA)
College: Utah State
Undrafted: 1962
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Interceptions: 34
INT yards: 552
INT TDs: 2
Fumble recoveries: 7
Games started: 171
Games played: 182
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Cornell M. Green (born February 10, 1940), is a former American football cornerback and safety who played for the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League. He went to the Utah State University where he didn't play football but was a two-time All-American basketball player.

Early years[edit]

Green attended El Cerrito High School before moving on to Utah State University, where he became one of the most decorated basketball players having earned All-American honors (1960-1961) as well as All-Skyline conference honors in each of his three years (1959–61). As a 6-4 forward, he set the Aggie career rebounding record with 1,067 which still stands today. He is also the fifth leading scorer in Utah State University history with 1,890 points.[1]

He produced some of the best individual seasons in school history as his 745 points in 1962 are still in second place, while his 403 rebounds in 1960 remain a school record for a season. He was the Skyline conference MVP as a sophomore.

In Green's three seasons with the Aggies, Utah State University went to the 1960 National Invitation Tournament and to the 1962 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. The 1959-1960 team finished eighth in the Associated Press Poll and seventh in the Coaches' Poll, which remains the highest year-end basketball ranking in school history.

In 1993, he was inducted into the Utah State University Intercollegiate Athletics Hall Of Fame. In 2001, he was inducted into the State of Utah Basketball Hall of Fame.

Professional career[edit]

Green was a college basketball player who never played a down of college football,[2] that the Dallas Cowboys converted into a defensive back.

On a tip from Utah State basketball coach LaDell Anderson, the Cowboys discovered and signed the multi-talented younger brother of then Red Sox infielder Pumpsie Green for $1,000 dollars. This was one of the innovative personnel decisions the Cowboys were renowned for.

At that time, he was leaning towards playing in the NBA, after being drafted by the Chicago Zephyrs in the fifth round of the 1962 NBA Draft. Even when he reported to training camp in Marquette, Michigan, in 1962, he just thought of it as a $1,000 bonus from the Dallas Cowboys. "I figured I’d go there for a week ... and they’d cut me," Green has said.[3]

His teammates nicknamed him "Sweet Lips" and eventually made the 1962 team as an undrafted free agent, learning fast enough to start 3 games and be selected to the NFL All-Rookie team. The next season he became a full-time starter at left cornerback setting a career best with 7 interceptions.

Green became a big-time contributor to Tom Landry’s intricate defensive schemes and a feared defender during his career. All he was missing were the interception stats. Said Gil Brandt: "I mean, if Cornell had any kind of hands, he would’ve had three times as many interceptions as he got ... and the guy played basketball in college."

He played cornerback during his first eight seasons, while leading the team in interceptions 4 times, being named to 5 Pro Bowls and 4 All-Pro teams. Cowboys coach Tom Landry said of Green, "He had the athletic skills from basketball to become a fine defensive back. His only transition was playing a sport where you could tackle someone with the ball, and Cornell never had a problem dealing with that".

In 1970 after Mike Gaechter suffered a career-ending injury, and with the cornerback position needing an upgrade, Tom Landry moved Mel Renfro to play cornerback. Given that Renfro was an All-Pro in 1969 at safety, the move may have seemed to be an odd one, but Renfro was matched with Herb Adderley, and the duo was better than Green and Phil Clark. Green in turn, moved from cornerback to the strong safety position, while the free safety position was handled between third-round pick Charlie Waters and undrafted free agent Cliff Harris.

After the switch, the Cowboys went to two consecutive Super Bowls. In 1971 and 1972 he went back to the Pro Bowl at safety.

Green never missed a game in 13 seasons (1962-74), he played 168 games, including 145 consecutive starts for the Cowboys between 1962-1974. He made five Pro Bowls at two different positions — cornerback and strong safety. He is tied with Michael Downs for fifth in career interceptions (34) in Cowboys history.[4]

In 1985, he was named to the Dallas Cowboys 25th Anniversary Team.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Green began scouting for the Dallas Cowboys in 1970 while still an active player and continued scouting through 1979, at which time he entered private business until joining the Denver Broncos in 1987. He spent 35 years scouting in the NFL, and 28 seasons doing it with the Broncos. In 2010, he received the AFC Scout of the Year Award from the Fritz Pollard Alliance.

He is the brother of Pumpsie Green, the first African American player to play for the Boston Red Sox, the last Major League Baseball team to integrate.


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