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Clairton's Green is Boys Athlete of the Year

| Saturday, July 3, 2010

It was Clairton day at Kennywood Wednesday, but Desimon Green was sitting at Quaker Steak & Lube, eating lunch.

Roller coasters were the last thing on his mind, and really, who could blame him• Mere mortals need roller coasters to fly. The way Green's stock has skyrocketed in the past year, his feet haven't touched the ground in a while.

Instead of joining classmates at Kennywood, he was itching to get home so that he could watch his favorite movie, "The Dark Knight."

The kid who loves Batman feels like a superhero these days and looked like one on the gridiron and hardwood during the 2009-10 season, earning The Daily News Boys Athlete of The Year award.

Green beat out Thomas Jefferson's Jim Giansante and Serra Catholic's Robbie Heatherington for the award.

"I'm not that big on superheroes," Green said. "Just Batman. You don't mess around with Batman."

You don't mess around with Green, either.

He produced 26 sacks one year after getting 23, a linebacker/defensive end whose pass rushing abilities have no WPIAL peer. For good measure, he was also the starting quarterback for the first team in Clairton to win a state championship. Despite playing the position for the first time, Green threw for 1,676 yards, rushed for 900 more and produced better than 20 touchdowns.

Despite admittedly being exhausted after football season, he still managed to put up 20 points a night during basketball season and led the Bears into the postseason.

All in all, it wasn't a bad year's work for a junior.

"I can't complain with how everything went," Green said. "I know there are still things I can do better, but I'm pretty proud of everything."

The most staggering fact regarding Green's two remarkable seasons on the football field is how close he came to never playing.

Consider this: Green did not play football during his freshman season and didn't particularly intend on playing as a sophomore. Basketball was his thing.

Three days of summer camp came and went in 2008, and Green was nowhere to be found at Neil C. Brown Stadium. With the season a mere 11 days away, he was "chillin' at home."

Then, a couple school board members informed Green's mother that football practices already had begun.

She wanted her son to play.

"That was it," Green said. "She wanted me to play. So I played. I went to practice the next day."

The Bears never have been quite the same since that afternoon, winning two WPIAL titles and a PIAA championship in his two seasons.

Clairton defensive coordinator Mike LeDonne, who was orchestrating his first week of practice in 2008 as the new leader of the Bears' defense, already was pleased with the talent at his disposal. A brief look at the field gave LeDonne a glimpse of great talents such as Kevin Weatherspoon, Eddie Ball and so many others.

And then, one afternoon at the start of practice, LeDonne saw a 6-5 kid walk onto the field.

"I immediately asked who he was," LeDonne recalled. "And I said that I wanted that kid on defense. He just had that look."

Green was in the starting lineup less than two weeks later, the edge rusher who was the final piece to one of the most dominant defenses in WPIAL history.

Weatherspoon and Josh Page gave Clairton a talented secondary. Ball patrolled the middle of the field with power and precision, and the defensive front was solid. The only thing missing was a great pass rusher, the kind of player who couldn't be blocked when a game was hanging in the balance.

And then came Green.

"You could just see all of this incredible ability," LeDonne said. "He was so raw, but you knew you could work with him. Just an incredible talent."

He exploded onto the scene as a sophomore.

During his most recent season, Green started slowly. He was learning the quarterback position and focusing more on the offensive side of the ball, and his play on defense was looking something less than stellar.

Late in the season, however, once the quarterback position started to require less of his time, the dominant defender returned.

"He's just so talented, so athletic," Clairton coach Tom Nola said. "He is still in the process of getting better, but he's already good. I believe, with the talent and size that he has, Desi can be one of the greatest football players to ever come from around here. He can just do so many things, the kind of things other people can't do."

Green was the driving force behind Clairton's defense in the biggest games down the stretch. In the PIAA semifinals, a war against Farrell that had produced a tie into the fourth quarter, Green produced a sack and a forced fumble that led to Brandon Small's game-winning fumble return for a touchdown.

"I knew I needed to step it up in those big games," Green said. "I was very hungry to win those games. Winning the state title was so big for us."

He had two other sacks in that game while going up against a Division 1 left tackle. He was dominant again on defense in the state title game.

At quarterback, however, he had his struggles early on and was yanked for a series in the third quarter.

With the game tied in the fourth, though, Nola turned to the quarterback who brought his team to the championship game.

"I had to put him back in," Nola said.

Green coolly drove the Bears to the game-winning touchdown, along the way cementing himself among the great athletes in Clairton history.

This series of events very much illustrates Green. He is still a work in progress and occasionally knows how to frustrate the coaching staff.

Nola, for instance, was angry with Green after a play in the WPIAL title game against Rochester when the quarterback ultimately scrambled for a touchdown. A man was open on the play, but Green decided to take matters into his own hands.

"Coach Nola doesn't yell very often but he yelled after that play," Green said. "I just put my hand on his shoulder and said, 'But coach, I did score.'"

Indeed, Green's talent is the kind that can't be doubted.

Nola has learned that his star player possesses a one-of-a-kind personality and that, in the end, he inevitably finds a way to win.

"You can't really stay mad at him for too long," Nola said. "He always has that big smile on his face."

Green was something of a one-man show during basketball season. The Bears were young but still made the playoffs, losing in the first round.

Had circumstances been different, though, Green believes Clairton could have traveled considerably farther in the postseason. The truth is, his body never felt right.

"People don't understand what it's like to play football all the way until the state championship and then have a basketball practice the next day," Green said. "It was just so hard. My body never really recovered. I definitely would have been better in basketball if I had gotten some rest."

Green still managed to put up 20 points per game even though opposing teams were focusing almost exclusively on stopping him.

"I didn't have a bad year," he said. "But I feel like we should have been even better."

Whether playing football or baseball (and many believe he could have been as dominant in baseball, had he chosen to play for Remondo Williams' squad), it is clear that Green is one of the best athletes in the history of a city that has a reputation of producing them in big numbers. He is big, fast, athletic and capable of dominating at seemingly every position in football and basketball.

In the past, he was never a distraction or a problem, but probably not a leader. But he will be a senior next fall and Nola sees a change.

"Desi is a leader now," Nola said. "He has really matured and is leading the way now. I'm impressed with how much he is taking control now. It's his team."

At 6-5, 225 pounds, Green is still growing into what he will become. Regardless of how spectacular his senior season will be, what Green accomplished last season will remain in the Clairton history books forever.

"He can do it all," Nola said. "He can just do it all."

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