But the University of Iowa All-America running back from New Jersey has never made a big deal out of it. He had a job and did it. Like, you know, real people do.
People who worked with Greene at McGregors Furniture say he didn’t talk much while he was employed in the store’s warehouse from last June through December. He came to work.
“When we’d get a truck to unload,” said McGregors supervisor Calvin Taylor, “we’d joke and say ‘Get Shonn the ball on the 20 and let him go.’ He was a great worker.”
Greene was academically ineligible to play for the Hawkeyes last year. He transferred to Kirkwood Community College for a year to regain his eligibility at Iowa. On the side, he did some good, honest work in a warehouse.
“We’ve hired a lot of Iowa football players to work for us,” said McGregors service warehouse manager Rebecca Fried. They include former Hawkeye stalwarts like Bob Sanders, Jonathan Babineaux, Bryan Mattison, Drew Tate and Mike Humpal.
“Normally, it’s just for over the summer, until they start in with practice,” Fried said. “But Shonn stayed through December, so he worked a lot more than any of the players we had here. He worked in the warehouse, unloading trucks, getting things ready for delivery, helping customers pick up their orders, assembling furniture.”
Taylor said the Hawkeyes who have worked there have served the store well.
“You don’t have to tell them too much,” he said. “They ask what they have to do and then get it done. It’s a tribute to the team’s work ethic. They come in and don’t showboat or anything.”
Fried said most of the football players have been good workers, though “one in particular, it was his first-ever job and it showed.”
But “you could tell Shonn had a pretty good background. He was soft-spoken and got along with everybody. He wasn’t a ‘look at me’ type. He’d rather blend in.”
“He wanted to be one of the fellas,” Taylor said. “He didn’t want anybody to know who he was.”
People in Iowa City and Coralville know their Hawkeyes. Occasionally, someone in the store would ask “Are you Shonn Greene?”
“He’d deny it,” Fried said. “I think it was because he wasn’t where he wanted to be.”
“He just wanted to do his job like everybody else here,” Taylor said. “He knew what he wanted to do, and he was focused.”
Greene worked a lot of Saturdays in that warehouse during the 2007 football season. If it hurt him not to be in an Iowa uniform, he didn’t let it show with sulking.
“He still had team spirit,” Taylor said. “We listened to the games on the radio.
“Sometimes they’d talk about his position on the radio, and he wouldn’t have anything to add. He’d listen like everybody else, but he didn’t give an opinion one way or the other.”
Maybe Greene knew something the broadcasters and the audience didn’t about what was coming in ’08. Of course, he couldn’t have had an inkling of the personal success he’d attain with a dozen games of more than 100 yards rushing, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year award, the Doak Walker Award, and more.
“It’s been wonderful,” Taylor said. “For that mild-mannered guy to have been working in the warehouse for us … I can’t explain it.
“I’m just proud to know him and have spent some time with him.”
Fried is a big Greene fan, too, and not because he’s an All-America.
“It’s neat to see him become so popular,” she said. “He’s deserving of it. He was very humble and modest when he was with us. Probably his favorite person in the world is his grandmother. He’s one of those homegrown, lovable guys.
“As aggressive as he is on the field, he’s a teddy bear off it. For even mentioning us in having a part in getting where he is, that says a lot right there.”
This past summer was the first one in several years when McGregors didn’t employ a Hawkeye football player. There was no reason for it, Fried said. It’s just how things worked out.
“If Shonn was the last one,” Taylor said, “then what a last one to have.”