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I play with a mean streak.” Those were the words of Steelers thirdround draft pick Kendrick Green, the center from Illinois, after he was selected by the team, and they had many in the organization smiling because of the attitude he will bring to the offensive line.
It’s an attitude many will welcome, and one that Green has had since growing up, something he has used to get by in his neighborhood. “I play hard. I play physical,” said Green, who does turn off the mean streak when it comes to his infant daughter, Hazel Jo, and younger sister, Lamonica. “I’ve played football that way my whole life.
“It’s just who I am. Growing up, the neighborhood I am from, called the East Bluff in Peoria, Illinois, is kind of a rough place to live. Just growing up with that aggressive vibe is what I needed. I didn’t want to let anyone punk me.”
At 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, Green would be an intimidating figure to “punk.” But when you are a teenager in a neighborhood where it was easy to head down the wrong path, he needed that attitude.
“There are guys I have known growing up, not making it to high school graduation, things like that,” said Green. “People I know going to jail. Things like that. It’s not the best neighborhood in the world.
“Staying busy, staying out of the way with being in athletics, that was big. And I have a great support system with my parents. They always kept me on the right track.” That right track has Green in a perfect spot with the Steelers, a team that fits his personality perfectly.
“They are a gritty team,” said Green. “It’s gritty football played in Pittsburgh. Real physical football. I think it will be a perfect match for me. I feel like the coaching staff believes in me and is willing to let me go to work. I just want to get my face in the playbook and learn. The faster I learn the playbook and the offense, the faster I can play. I feel like I’m pretty football savvy, have a good football IQ. I love Xs and Os. That has always been a thing for me. I really like talking ball, so I’m excited.”
While he has the versatility to play center or guard, he said that from what he has been told by the Steelers, center it is. “Wherever I need to play, I will play. Right now, it’s looking like center, so that’s what I’m ready to do,” said Green. “Being a center is like the quarterback of the offensive line. You have to have leadership qualities.” Green said since he was drafted, he heard from multiple teammates, but the one text that really got to him came from Maurkice Pouncey, who retired this offseason after being a staple at center.
“He reached out to me the morning after I was drafted, texted me,” said Green. “That was crazy to hear from him. He is a Hall of Famer in my eyes. He has been a staple here, the center for a long time. Hopefully one day I plan on joining him, being a Steelers center for a long time in my career.”
One of the things that really has Green excited is the prospect of snapping to Ben Roethlisberger, a player he has seen in action for a while. “I never in a million years would think this was going to happen,” said Green. “He has been the quarterback for the Steelers for as long as I have been playing football. It’s surreal. He has been playing since I was 7 years old, and I’m 22 years old now. It’s just exciting. I’m ready to get to it.”