Five-month old Hazel Green doesn’t realize it, but her dad Kendrick has an important weekend coming up.
The All-Big Ten offensive lineman and former Illini from Peoria expects to be picked in the NFL draft this week.
The annual talent grab starts Thursday night with the first round (7 p.m., ABC/ESPN and NFL Network). Rounds two and three are scheduled for Friday (6 p.m., ABC/ESPN and NFL Network) and the final four rounds are Saturday (11 a.m., ABC/ESPN and NFL Network).
How is Green feeling?
“Absolutely excited,” he told me Monday. “Ready to get it over with.”
Green is hearing his name will be called sometime Friday, attempting to become the first former Illini to be picked in the first three rounds since Dawuane Smoot went in the third round of the 2017 draft to the Jaguars.
“We’ll see what happens,” Green said.
The waiting can be the hardest part. Green is “chilling, watching my daughter and working out.”
Green is improving at changing Hazel’s diapers. A note to the NFL: He is coachable.
“Her mom’s a lot better than me,” Green said.
Green doesn’t have a dream destination. He is ready to go to work for whoever picks him.
“I just want to get an opportunity,” Green said. “I’ve never really had a team in the NFL.”
Green has been splitting time in recent weeks between Champaign and Peoria. He will return to his hometown to watch the draft with family and friends.
“There will be food and everybody having a good time,” Green said. “I’ll probably be sitting on the couch super nervous. I’ll try to take in the moment.”
To prepare for pre-draft workouts, Green spent time in Dallas.
Apparently it went well. Green gets high marks from NFL scouts for his strength, quickness and versatility. Projected as a center in the NFL, the 6-foot-2, 305-pound Green can also play guard. The NFL likes it when players can play multiple spots.
Green has interviewed with all but two NFL teams. No surprise, there is strong interest in the three-year Big Ten starter.
“It’s been pretty much nonstop,” Green said. “The process has been great.”
The 22-year-old began his Illinois career as a defensive lineman. But after playing the position as a redshirt freshman, he made a successful transition to offense prior to the 2018 season and never left.
The right choiceGreen could have returned to Illinois for the 2021 season. Doug Kramer will be back along the offensive line. So will veteran starters in Vederian Lowe and Alex Palczewski.
But after talking it over with his family and former Illinois coach Lovie Smith, Green took the next step in his career.
“A lot of it was weighing options,” Green said. “I decided it was best to take the shot.”
Green watched a few spring practices under new coach Bret Bielema.
“I think they are going to do well this year,” Green said. “Guys are in high spirits. It’s a great deal.”
He is leaving Illinois with a lot of great memories and a college degree in sociology. Green graduates in May.
“It was really big for my dad,” Green said. “I got that done while I was training.”
Next up for Green is the NFL. He doesn’t have set goals beyond making a roster and winning a lot of games.
At Illinois, Green didn’t experience a winning season and went to only one bowl.
But his love of the sport hasn’t diminished. Once his playing days end, Green said he is thinking about coaching at either the high school or college level.
Clearing a pathWhen the call comes, Green will be the first Illini selected in the NFL draft since the Kansas City Chiefs took Nick Allegretti in the seventh round two years ago. It worked out great for Allegretti, who has already played in two Super Bowls.
In recent years, NFL teams have not been looking to Illinois players as much as they did in the past. No former Illini was selected in 2014, ‘16, ‘18 and ‘20.
Green expects to become the third Illini offensive lineman picked in recent years, joining Allegretti and Ted Karras (2015, Patriots).
Soon, Green will be a part of the club.
“A lot of great guys have come through. A lot of hard workers,” Green said. “I’d be honored to be a part of that list.”
Green keeps in contact with the former Illini in the NFL, especially Allegretti.
In 2020, Green started at center when Kramer couldn’t go. It ended up helping his pro prospects, giving NFL teams a good look at his skill set.
Good-guy Green is about to make some NFL team very happy. They will like his talent, work ethic and attitude.
Perhaps he will get better at changing diapers, too.