Originally created 11/15/02

Quarterback aims to make Tigers Greene with envy



ATHENS, Ga. - It was Parents Day at Auburn, so the trip wasn't a total waste.

In the spring of 1999, Rick and Kay Greene accompanied their son David on an unofficial recruiting visit to the school. Greene's sister Leslie was a student there, so the drive from Snellville, Ga., served two purposes - a family get-together, and a get-to-know-you session with Auburn's football coaches.

The latter never materialized. David and his father spent all day trying to set up a meeting with a coach, but they ended up returning home disappointed and certain that David would never play for the Tigers.

"We couldn't find any coaches to talk to," David said this week. "We ended up driving 2 1/2 hours there and 2 1/2 hours back and didn't talk to anybody."

David will walk into Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday as the starting quarterback for No. 7 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference). He and his father say they harbor no bitter feelings toward the Tigers' coaches, but they'd probably take some satisfaction in letting them know what they're missing - as if they didn't know already.

"They didn't seem to know who we were or really care," said Rick, who followed in his father's footsteps years earlier by attending Auburn. "With that, David just decided that Auburn wasn't really where he needed to be."

If Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville were able to do it over, he would probably choose to recruit Greene with more zeal. The No. 24 Tigers (7-3, 4-2) have only recently begun to establish consistency at quarterback after two seasons of instability under Daniel Cobb and Jason Campbell.

Meanwhile, Greene has been an unqualified success as a Bulldog. He grasped coach Mark Richt's complex offense faster than anyone envisioned last season, earning freshman of the year honors in the SEC while leading Georgia to an 8-4 record.

This season, Greene has adapted well to sharing quarterback duties with redshirt freshman D.J. Shockley. He is fourth in the league and 23rd nationally in pass efficiency, having thrown for 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

On and off the field, Georgia seems the perfect fit. Athens is only a 45-minute drive from home, and his girlfriend is a student at Georgia.

Yet it can be tantalizing to wonder if Greene would be wearing red and black had Auburn's coaches been more endearing. Neither he nor his father can say for sure whether a better sales pitch would have resulted in his signing with the Tigers.

Greene was an All-State quarterback at South Gwinnett High, but Tuberville - four months after leaving Mississippi - had his eye on Campbell, a Parade All-American who captured the fancy of recruiters as a star at Taylorsville (Miss.) High.

Auburn also had Ben Leard, Gabe Gross and Jeff Klein, and Allen Tillman had signed with the Tigers.

"I knew they really didn't need a quarterback," said David, 20.

Nevertheless, Greene believed the coaches were interested because they sent letters and invited him to the team's A-Day game. Greene looked forward to meeting Tuberville, but he got lost in the shuffle of hundreds of other recruits.

"It wasn't a real good situation when we got over there," said his father, a 46-year-old who works in the trucking business. "They just kind of herded us into a big room, we had lunch and they took us to the football field."

After the game, the Greenes went to the football offices in search of a coach. A secretary told them none were available.

"As a parent, you want your kid going to school where he's wanted, where there's a family atmosphere," Rick said. "At that time, we didn't feel there was one there for us."

The family drove home and later received written apologies from Tuberville and Greg Knox, the Tigers' recruiting coordinator.

"We had quite a few kids here, over 600, for the A-Day game," Knox said this week. "I guess he felt we didn't give him the attention we should have."

Georgia didn't make the same mistake. Jim Donnan, then the Bulldogs coach, embraced Greene when he visited Athens. The female escort assigned to Greene knew everything about him - his statistics from the previous night's game, his parents' names, his sister's name and where she went to school.

"Every coach came up and spoke to us," Rick said. "It was a family atmosphere and it was a very comfortable atmosphere, whereas there was nothing warm at all by the way Auburn did their recruiting."

When Signing Day came, Greene's decision was easy. He chose the Bulldogs over Georgia Tech.

"I've always liked Georgia," David said. "'Once I came up here and saw this campus, I felt at home from the get-go."

Campbell has only recently begun to demonstrate the potential that he brought to Auburn. He lost his starting job to Cobb last year - the Tigers finished 7-5 - and Cobb began this season as the starter after winning the job in fall camp.

Campbell reclaimed the starter's spot Oct. 19 at Florida, and he has been instrumental in the Tigers' three-game winning streak since. But he's not yet thought of as an equal to Greene, who has established himself as the league's top young signal-caller.

The Greenes say they're way past that visit to Auburn, but it's tempting to wonder what might have been. Auburn fans might be doing plenty of that if Greene sends them home with a loss Saturday.

"Having had ties with Auburn, I was disappointed at the time at the way things took place," his father said.

Pursuing celebrated quarterback Jason Campbell, Auburn's coaches virtually ignored David Greene in 1999. Judging from Campbell's and Greene's college statistics, Greene has had the last laugh:

Campbell

2000-Redshirted

2001-Alternating with Daniell Cobb, completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,117 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.

2002-Lost the starter's job to Cobb during preseason drills before reclaiming it Oct. 19 at Florida. Has led the Tigers to three straight victories since, throwing for 402 yards on 26-of-42 passing with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Greene

2000-Redshirted

2001-In earning SEC freshman of the year honors, set records at Georgia for most yards passing by a freshman (2,789) and most touchdowns passes by a freshman (17). In fourth game, completed 61 percent of his passes for 303 yards in a dramatic win at Tennessee.

2002-Sharing time with D.J. Shockley, is 23rd nationally in pass efficiency and has thrown for 19 touchdowns. His 2,162 passing yards are third in the SEC behind Eli Manning (2,663) and Rex Grossman (2,548).

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or larry.williams@augustachronicle.com