COVINGTON, Ga. — Back on May 16 when Nyland Green got his 16th Division I scholarship offer, he felt compelled to take a step back and reflect a bit.
It came from Kansas. The next day, Syracuse came calling. Then South Florida five days later. A month later, national champion Clemson. It all seemed surreal to Green, a 6-foot-3 cornerback who, at the time, was still technically a sophomore.
Still technically in his first season playing outside of his natural position of wide receiver. Still just recovering from his first year of varsity ball.
At first, the switch seemed like a bit of a novelty — something to do to past the time, to help him become a better all around football player and to help his team get some depth in the secondary.
Four stars later, the Newton junior is a top 300 ESPN junior, which means he’s one of the top defensive backs in the country.
Green burst onto the scene as a corner in 2018, snagging three interceptions, including a pick six, a fumble recovery and 17 total tackles. His height is what gives college recruiters visions of grandeur regarding his potential as a defensive back. But although the attention has come fast and furious for Green, it’s not something he’s completely unfamiliar with.
Green’s older brother Brandon graduated from Newton and has plans to walk on Georgia State. But beyond that, when Green moved to Covington from Mississippi, he planted his feet on a street that is arguably one of the most athletically talented in streets in town.
“Me, Kurt Taylor and Ashton Hagans, we all live on the same street together,” Green said. “We all came up together for a bit, playing ball, and our parents are close too. Plus my brother Brandon is the reason why I know those guys. They were his friends first, and then he just introduced me to them and we’ve all got a great relationship with each other. I love those boys.”
Taylor is a a Newton High graduated who grabbed headlines couple of years ago when he temporarily transferred to Grayson where he helped those Rams win a state championship. And Hagans starred as a point guard for the Newton basketball team before reclassifying to leave school a year early and join the Kentucky Wildcats program where he’ll be a sophomore in the coming season.
Green says he couldn’t have picked a better street in Covington to live.
“That street is pretty lit,” he said. “Lots of talent there.”
Newton defensive backs coach Josh Skelton is specifically concerned with the talent wrapped up in Green’s 6-foot-3 frame, however. Skelton said he’s proud of the way Green has handled the transition from wideout to corner.
“He really bought in to what we were asking him to do,” Skelton said. “We know his first love was playing receiver, and he’s still probably one of our best receivers here. But we also know that he can really give himself an opportunity to play major college football as a DB. There are a lot of 6-foot-3 receivers out there, but for him to have the kind of size and athleticism he has at corner, that’s rare. And that’s what college recruiters are looking for.”
Green is taking it all in stride though, not allowing himself to get too caught up in the hype. Not letting himself take himself or the attention too seriously.
When he’s with his teammates, it’s as if he’s just a regular teenage boy. In fact, he’s earned the nickname “Smiley” from some of them, because it doesn’t take long for him to flash a wide grin, especially when having fun with his football brothers.
Perhaps one reason why he doesn’t take himself too seriously is because he knows that despite his talent and the recruiting fervor that’s come with it, he still has a lot to learn in order to maximize his potential as a football player.
“My first time playing real football is in the ninth grade,” he said. “So things have moved fast. It’s been a fun process though, and I’m just taking it day by day and just trying to do whatever I can to get better.”
He still has dreams of catching the touchdown passes, though, instead of swatting them down. But that comes secondary (no pun intended) to him now, as he just wants to do his part to help this new-look Newton football program achieve greatness.
“I definitely can say I still like playing receiver better probably,” he said. “But I’ll do whatever I can to be what’s best for our team and to help our team win. Whatever that needs to be, I’ll try to do.”