RED SPRINGS — The offseason noise for Blake Greene is finally over.
He knows where he’ll play college football and says he felt at home during a recent visit to one of the only programs that likes him as a quarterback.
Red Springs’ senior playmaker, whose video game-like passing totals in high school put him third all-time in North Carolina football history for touchdowns behind Chris Leak and T.A. McLendon, committed to Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday, ending a four-month recruiting process that’s been grueling, but gratifying.
“It feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders,” Greene said. “The longer it took to make (my decision) made me really appreciate football.”
Coaches don’t often single out athletes as favorite players, but George Coltharp admits his team captain was the key component of consecutive third-round playoff trips and a 2012 Three Rivers Conference championship. Greene’s ability to extend plays and prowess for touchdowns kept Red Springs afloat during his sophomore and junior seasons, campaigns featuring the area’s top offense, which averaged nearly 500 yards per game.
“My teammates are a large part of the reason I had so much success,” Greene said. “And nothing is more fun than being in that locker room after you won a game and talking about it with your teammates.”
Coltharp says Belhaven was the best possible outcome for Greene considering the circumstances this late in the recruiting season.
“Blake’s a very humble guy with great parents and they’re always in prayer about things,” Coltharp said. “I told Blake there’s a plan for him. He doesn’t have to understand it, he just has to comply. He’s a kid with a bright future and I’m most proud of him for his perseverance to succeed despite the pressure he’s seen from everyone waiting on him to fail throughout his four years.”
The two-time Robeson County player of the year whose size at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, was never a hindrance in an offense geared toward his strengths, will have a chance early to play and compete at the next level under Air Raid guru Hal Mumme.
“Maybe I can become the prince since he’s the king of the Air Raid,” Greene said.
Mumme, a former University of Kentucky head coach who left his job as SMU’s passing game coordinator last season to take over the NAIA program in January, is one of the original architects of the stat-filled scheme and has passed down his knowledge of offense to several current DI coaches including Washington State’s Mike Leach and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.
As the facilitator in a fan-friendly, uptempo offense he’s grown accustomed to at the prep level, Greene is under the same tutelage that transformed Kentucky’s Tim Couch into a Southeastern Conference record-breaking passer and future No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Browns in 1999.
“We’ve always talked about what is best for Blake in the short run and in the long run,” Coltharp said. “It’s always better to go where you’re wanted and not where you want to go. It doesn’t matter where Blake goes to college because no one can take away the fact he’s best quarterback to come out of Robeson County in recent memory. He had a legendary high school career and did it with humility.
“He’s happy it worked out for him and his family financially. What an incredible honor it is for Blake that the innovator of the Air Raid asked him to come play for me.”
National Signing Day came and went for Greene without fervor in February as he waited on opportunity and a qualifying standardized test score. Extensive studying and excess test prep led to Greene’s acceptance in late spring.
“Blake improved every time he took the test,” Coltharp said. “He wasn’t going to be denied. It was very easy for him to give up. His goal was to play college football and play quarterback. He can do that now.”
Both Catawba and Methodist were impressed with his film and leadership qualities, but neither was the right fit for the signal caller who intends on pursuing a coaching career in the college ranks.
After leaning toward playing on defense at Catawba late in the recruiting season, Greene pushed Belhaven to the forefront after Coltharp was intrigued by a text message from Mumme — who Coltharp had met through former Lumberton coach Joe Salas — requesting more info on the Maxton native.
“Early in the (recruiting) process, I sent him film of Blake and asked him to evaluate it for me while he was still at SMU,” Coltharp said. “I told him that I understood he’s not as tall as the quarterbacks at big-time DI schools, but wanted an honest opinion. He replied and said that Blake could play quarterback and be very successful. If he was 6-foot tall, SMU would’ve probably recruited him.”
Mumme began his career in the high schools ranks before coaching seven different teams at the college level. Once he accepted the job at Belhaven, Greene became one of his top priorities on offense in this year’s signing class.
But he needed to meet with Greene on campus first and introduce him to the deep south.
“The only issue in this whole deal was distance which was kind of daunting,” Coltharp said. “He had to see the guys here who are in college come back home. Guys like Drayvon (Fairley) and Xavier (McEachern) were able to come home sometimes on weekends. We took all the schools he was looking at and did a ratings system. Belhaven was the overwhelming choice for him.”
Greene leaves for Mississippi this summer and says he’s eager to get back on the field. He’s been working with Red Springs’ younger players this spring, hoping to spread some of his knowledge of the quarterback position to future conference champions.
Those intricate details and watching his instruction unfold on the field is one of the leading reasons he believes coaching’s in his future.
“I think I’ll be able to learn and develop a good football network (at Belhaven),” Greene said. “I’ll be trying to soak in everything I can from coach Mumme. He gives me the best opportunity to pursue a coaching career and be a legend at it.”
Added Coltharp: “Becoming a college coach would be good for Blake and that’s what he wants to do. His family’s adamant about him seeing the outside world. He’s kind of like Vonta (Leach). He’s never forgotten his roots, but he’s gotten a chance to see the outside world. Mumme’s a guy in the know and having that relationship will open up opportunities for him.”
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.