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December 6, 2012
Even though it seemed like a forgone conclusion considering the season he had, Rutgers senior linebacker Khaseem Greene was officially announced as the Big East defensive player of the year earlier today. It is the second straight year Greene has received the honor, although last year he was forced to share the award with Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe.
This year, the award belongs solely to Greene.
"It feels different than last year. It feels like it's just flat out mine," Greene said. "I got some help from my guys up front and my DB's but to not have a 'co' on the front of it is a better feeling than last year. It almost hurts me to see my head coach have a 'co' in front of his name [Big East co-head coach of the year Kyle Flood]. It just feels a lot different and a lot better than it did last year."
Greene's reaction to receiving the award came with a great deal of humility.
"I'm extremely blessed to be in the situation where I'm being recognized as the defensive player of the year again," he said. "I'm just appreciative. I'm thankful to have my coaches, my family, definitely thankful to have my teammates."
Last year, Greene finished with a whopping 141 tackles in 13 games but this year his stats were padded a bit more in other areas.
In 12 regular season games, he has amassed 125 tackles, six forced fumbles, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
"I had a better season in my eyes than what I had last year and what I expected," Greene said. "I was able to make more plays this year."
This season was only Greene's second at linebacker after spending his first three seasons at Rutgers as a safety.
"I obviously liked playing safety coming downhill hitting and catching interceptions, things like that," Greene said. "But I'm really enjoying being a linebacker. It's a lot more fun for me and a lot more action."
A fifth-year senior, Greene toyed with the idea of leaving early for the NFL after last season's stellar campaign. But an injury in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl further solidified his decision to remain at Rutgers for one more season.
"The fact that I broke my leg last year told me that God felt like I should be in school," he said. "And it just paid off tremendously. Outside of football, I graduated, I got my degree. I got my major and minor finished. So from that standpoint it was awesome for me."
Rutgers will have a few players tussling with the same decision this year and Greene offered some words of advice.
"It all depends on the player and the situation. For instance, Mohamed [Sanu], the perfect decision for him was to leave school. And it just shows from his play in the NFL. ...His situation was a little different than mine. For me, it was my first time as a linebacker. If I had any questions or any doubts or whatever the case may be, I kind of nipped it in the bud.
"Football on average I think is like 3.5 years for a player in the NFL. Everybody has dreams and aspirations to go to the league. If it's meant for you to go, you'll go. ...I think the important thing is to get your degree because that's going to carry you longer than an NFL career will."