Tim Green discusses literacy and youth at a Binghamton University Forum event at the Binghamton Club on Sept. 23. Green, an author, lawyer and former football player, has talked about the importance of reading to more than 100,000 students across the country.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Ex-NFL star highlights the power of readingTweet
Tim Green dreamed about doing two things while growing up: becoming a pro football player and a best-selling author.
“As much as I loved football, I loved books,” the former Syracuse University and Atlanta Falcons football star told the Binghamton University Forum on Sept. 23. “I was equally passionate about books. … I read books because they were fun. Books were entertainment to me.
“I know some of you are out there thinking, ‘This guy did get hit in the head too much’ because to a lot of young people books are the furthest thing from fun.”
Green not only went on to an eight-year NFL career, but he became a best-selling author of suspense novels after retirement.
For the past two years, Green has used his love of books and sports for a new mission: bringing the power of reading to children.
The central New York native has written six books over the past two years that take young readers into the world of professional sports. He has followed that up by visiting 257 schools across the country and discussing the importance of books and reading to more than 100,000 students.
“The reason I think young people listen to me is because I say to them, ‘I remember what it was like to be where you are,’” said Green, who visited schools in Vestal and Binghamton later in the day.
Green gave the Forum members gathered at the Binghamton Club a taste of what he tells students.
There are three things needed to be whatever you want to be, especially if your dream is in sports and entertainment, Green said: Talent, a “maniacal” work ethic and luck.
“My message to kids isn’t to take your wildest dream and throw it out the window,” he said. “My message is: Develop your talent, work maniacally, but understand that you have to be lucky.”
But children also should develop an alternative dream to things such as playing pro sports or winning American Idol, he said.
“Work as much toward that as you dream of playing in the NFL,” Green said. “For every minute you spend on your wildest dream, spend a minute on your education.”
Luckily for students, Green said, they can “exercise” their minds with books.
“Reading will make you smarter,” he said. “Books are weightlifting for the brain.”
Books also should be like a roller-coaster ride for students, Green said.
“After five chapters, that book should take off,” he said. “It should twist and turn and loop and bend until you get to the end and say, ‘Wow! That was great. I want to do that again.’”
Green is finding that his books, such as Football Genius and Baseball Great, are affecting children. According to Green, eight out of every 10 e-mails he gets from boys ages 10-15 say they had never read a novel before hearing him speak.
The father of five, Green models his characters after his own children. This ensures there will be strong female characters, as well. He wants his books to have short chapters and accessible language. Green will also have his children and others provide input on language and humor.
Green even took his first books to his daughter’s elementary school and read them to her class.
“If the kids just sat there looking at me, I would mark it and (later) rewrite the end of the chapter,” he said. “The only chapters that stayed were when the kids said, ‘Mr. Green, keep going. Don’t stop.’”
Twenty-five years after starring on Syracuse University’s football field, Green is back in the game as the head coach of the Skaneateles High School team. And after 25 years, Green is still passionate about books. He is even putting his money where his mouth is: All of the money Green makes in speaking fees goes to helping schools and libraries buy new books.
“In this day and age, I want to provide a story that’s exciting, entertaining and wholesome,” he said. “I want to write a good story with good characters that boys and girls can relate to.”