MINNEAPOLIS — Shonn Greene leaned against a wall in a Metrodome hallway. He waited for a TV camera’s light to kick in.
The light flickered and flickered. Greene’s energy did the same.
“Tired, man,” the Iowa running back said with a belly laugh. “Just tired.”
It was late Saturday night. He just finished off the greatest season ever for an Iowa running back. He was tired, man.
The best kind of tired.
Greene rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the Hawkeyes’ 55-0 thrashing of Minnesota in the Golden Gophers’ Metrodome finale Saturday night.
Greene’s effort pushed his season total to 1,729 yards, the single-season record at Iowa, topping Tavian Banks’ 1,691 yards set in 1997. Greene also has 17 rushing TDs this season, tying Banks’ ‘97 record. Greene, the only running back in FBS to rush for more than 100 yards in every game this season, became the first Hawkeye to lead the Big Ten in rushing since Albert Young in 2005.
In the locker room afterward, Banks, 34, who works in athletic training in Naperville, Ill., gave Greene a call on his cell phone. That’s how the torch is passed these days, via Verizon.
Everyone can hear Greene now.
“I just feel privileged and honored,” Greene said. “Tavian was a great back here and a great person. It was a privilege to break the record.”
Banks surprised Greene with the call. Greene said it was a quick congratulations.
“The thing that I would add is his humility,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The way he’s handled success has been so impressive.”
That was the theme that ran through Iowa’s record-breaking night at the Metrodome. It became a bucket brigade of credit.
Defensive tackle Mitch King credited the defensive backs. Cornerback Amari Spievey, whose 57-yard interception return for a TD gave Iowa a 27-0 halftime lead, credited the front four.
“It took us a little bit to get rolling, but our offense and defense started clicking,” King said. “Everybody started clicking.”
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi credited wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for bailing him out with a terrific grabs. Let’s just say they helped each other.
Stanzi completed 15 of 28 for a career-high 255 yards and tying a career high with three TD passes. Johnson-Koulianos caught 7 passes for a career-high 181 yards, including a 29-yard TD in the third quarter.
“Ricky Stanzi, I just felt like he’s gotten better at different aspects of his game as the year went on,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “It’s encouraging in a lot of ways. It’s inspired me to get better.”
Ferentz has talked all season about how this team has been enjoyable to coach. He’s also mentioned what an inspirational performer Greene has been.
Every week, Greene has been a consistent force. He’s fought a right ankle injury for the last month of the season, since a victory at Indiana. He shook it off a throughout the game Saturday night. He’s taken the hits, but he’s delivered more.
That man-sized effort has echoed throughout the locker room.
“That guys a stud. He’s been a stud since he’s gotten here,” Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer said. “He’s a great player, he’s a humble person and everything that he gets he deserves.”
Greene’s season will be a generational topic of conversation. Angerer is going to make sure of that, personally. He’s already told Greene he’s going to tell his kids he played with the Sicklerville, N.J., native.
“He said, ‘You don’t have any kids,’” Angerer said with a laugh. “It’s something I look forward to. He’s made an impact on everybody’s lives on this team. I think he’s the epitome of what Iowa football is.”
Greene made an impact on Johnson-Koulianos in the third quarter. On a 37-yard burst, Greene broke into the open. He needed to split two defenders to take the full 62 yards for a TD. When looking to make a cut, Greene ran straight into Johnson-Koulianos, who turned and looked for someone to block.
The shot sent Johnson-Koulianos to the turf.
“I thought someone shot me with a shotgun out of nowhere,” Johnson-Koulianos said. “I couldn’t imagine what just hit me because I couldn’t see it, until I got up and saw that it was Shonn.”
Johnson-Koulianos, a wide receiver, then gave maybe the ultimate compliment to opposing defensive backs.
“I don’t know how these safeties get up down after down and hit this guy,” he said. “I don’t understand how they do it, but I have a lot more respect for them now.”
You’ve followed Greene’s story all season. You know the academics, the moving furniture, the whole “lost 2007” thing. Anything else? How about the tattoo on Greene’s neck.
It’s a heart with the name “Cheryl” written in cursive inside. Cheryl is his grandmother. He started living with her when he was in high school. He said she is basically his mom.
“She had a lot to do with my life,” he said. “I got the tattoo after high school. It’s just a little something.”
While the camera light flickered, Greene had a few quiet moments for himself. It was such a contrast to the previous three hours.
It was a good kind of tired. The best kind.