Black History Month: Dexter Green
AMES, Iowa - The Iowa State football program experienced some of its best success on the gridiron from 1975-1978, while All-American running back Dexter Green was shining in the Cyclone backfield. Green left Iowa State as the school's all-time leading rusher with 3,437 yards, a record that lasted nearly two decades. But before Green became a two-time all-Big Eight running back, there were people that doubted he could even survive in such a prestigious conference.
The Woodridge, Va. native who was described as being "all-everything" in his playing days at Gar-Field High School, where he once rushed for 209 yards on nine carries in a high school game, was generously listed at 5-9, 171 pounds during his collegiate playing days. Former teammate Tom Randall remembers people questioning whether Green would be able to play in the Big Eight, given his small stature.
"Dexter was very undersized and everybody always said he was too small to play in the Big Eight," Randall said. "But he had this swagger about him and he always proved them wrong."
Prove them wrong, he did. Green had a break-out sophomore campaign in 1976, during which he became just the fourth Cyclone in school history to break the 1,000 yard rushing mark, despite playing over half of the season with a knee injury that required post-season surgery. Green's emergence lifted a team that had gone 4-7 the previous season to an 8-3 record.
It was during the 1976 season that Green began to show that he was at his best in the biggest games, a quality that would define him throughout his collegiate career. The Cyclones were off to a 4-1 start, matching the previous season's win total, when they traveled to undefeated No. 7 Missouri in the Tigers' homecoming game. To make matters worse, Green had missed the previous week's game against Utah with a knee injury.
It didn't take long for Green to show all 66,000 Tiger fans in attendance that his knee was feeling just fine. A 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was just the beginning of one of the best single-game rushing performances in school history. Green racked up 214 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries as he led the Cyclones to the 21-17 upset victory. Green is still one of just nine Cyclones to reach the 200 yard rushing mark in a single game.
"He was at his best against the great teams," said Earle Bruce, Green's head coach at Iowa State. "I had many good backs over the years, but not all of them were at their best against the elite like Dexter was. He was determined to be a success. I had several guys rush for 100 yards, but not against Nebraska and Oklahoma."
Green continued to put up big numbers against the elite defenses of the Big Eight, including going over 100 yards against the vaunted Nebraska "black shirts," as the Cyclones took down the Cornhuskers in both 1976 and 1977. With his big-game success, came a nickname that stuck with Green during the rest of his career at Iowa State.
"We called him "money" because he was," Randall said. "He was just money. You knew in the big games, he was going to be there. I was like a fan just watching him. The way he could cut and change direction, he reminded me in some ways of a Tony Dorsett. He could just stop, cut and go the other way. Nobody could ever hit him hard. "
Teammate John Quinn, who was a quarterback for the Cyclones during Green's final two years at Iowa State, said that he knew how to get the best out of his teammates, and when that wasn't enough, he could do it himself, too.
"He would always rise to the occasion," Quinn said. "He didn't have the biggest shoulders in the world, but there were times when he just put the entire team on his back. Then when you looked him in the eyes, you knew that you had to play as hard as you could because he was playing as hard as he could and giving everything he had."
During Green's career, he helped take the Cyclones to great heights, including appearances in the 1977 Peach Bowl (in which he rushed for 174 yards) and the 1978 Hall of Fame Bowl. Despite his numbers and achievements, Quinn said what he remembers is the person and teammate that Green was to him, and many others.
"Dexter was the epitome of what you want in a teammate," Quinn said. "He was just a great guy, somebody that you could rely upon. He loved life and loved playing football at Iowa State. He was a true leader. The thing I remember is that when I first came there, he was a junior and with Dexter, it didn't matter what year you were. He was there for you to help you become the best player you could be and he made sure you could help the team."
Green currently ranks third on Iowa State's all-time rushing list at 3,437 yards and is second in scoring with 228 points. He was a member of the Iowa State Hall of Fame class of 2000.Green passed away in 2003 after a battle with cancer at the age of 46.