Jiaire Greene was leaving Philadelphia in June to attend an invite-only, seven-on-seven football camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., when he lost his cleats.
Greene, now a freshman at West Catholic High School, scrambled to buy a pair of Under Armour Spotlight football cleats when he arrived in Florida, but didn’t have time to break them in. Blisters emerged on the back of Greene’s heels as he tried to play through the pain. Then he began to bleed. By the third day of games, enough was enough.
Greene’s parents looked on from the bleachers, noticing their son was hobbled. Trying to lessen the pain, Greene overcompensated for the blisters on the back of his feet until the effort started to affect his hamstrings.
When Greene limped to the sideline, his parents thought he was done. Instead, Greene took off his cleats, put on a pair of black Crocs, and jogged back onto the field. After playing several games, this was one of his last chances to make an impression.
Now or never.
The ball was snapped to the quarterback on the 15-yard line with Greene at running back.. Greene darted down the middle of the field on a seam route, raised his right arm in the end zone and made a touchdown catch in his Crocs.
That was the highlight, but there was more. Greene made other nice catches and strong cuts and got open more often in his Crocs than he had in the cleats. He also played outside linebacker, and the opposing quarterback didn’t throw into his zone once. He played two games in the Crocs.
“I moved around pretty good,” he said. “I slipped one time, but everything was fine.”
And just in case you were wondering …
“They are legit Crocs!” Jiaire’s father, Vincent, said. “They’re not knockoffs.”
For Greene, it was fun jumping around and cutting in the Crocs.
“We were all in shock that he was able to run the way he was,” said his father, Vincent. “He looked like he wasn’t in pain, he was out there balling.”
“I was like, ‘I have to record this, there’s no way he’s getting ready to play in Crocs,’” said his mother, Tanisha.
Greene is expected to make an immediate impact at linebacker and running back for West Catholic. Greene received plenty of interest from other schools after he finished his youth football career with the Oxford Circle Raiders, but he went with familiarity.
His father played at West Catholic and his brother, K’Saan, is the starting running back entering his junior season. The Burrs’ coaches believe the brothers can form a dynamic tandem.
Jiaire Greene’s first scrimmage action for West Catholic came against Jenkintown on Aug. 21. He only had a few carries but broke one for a long touchdown.
“He’s good, he’s going to be a player,” coach Brian Wood said. “He can play running back, he can play linebacker. He’s very smart. He reminds me of [former All-Pro linebacker] Takeo Spikes.”
Greene dreams of playing running back at Florida State or Oregon, then in the NFL.
He’s already 5-7, 170 pounds, and he’s always been one of the best players on the field at the youth level. He earned the nickname “Jacks” playing youth football for the 69th Street Wildcats in Upper Darby at age 5. “Applejacks” was the name of a reverse play where he’d line up in the slot and run to the left. When the crowd saw it, they pretty much knew the result would be a touchdown.
“His team would always play like 8 or 9 in the morning, and a lot of the older kids’ parents would show up early to watch him play,” Vincent said.
The word got out fast about Greene’s performance in Crocs. He was called “a beast” and “different,” and someone said, “Man, you’re crazy.”
Greene’s performance in Crocs shows how passionate heis about football. He plays video games and has hobbies like every other kid, but football is his focus.
“Football means everything to me,” Greene said. “It takes my mind off a lot of things.”