Ron Wolf's legacy in the NFL's smallest city is assured largely because he hired Mike Holmgren, traded for Brett Favre, and signed Reggie White.
But the April 15, 2000 trade in which the Green Bay Packers acquired running back Ahman Green from Seattle for cornerback Fred Vinson and an exchange of late-round draft choices might go down as one of Wolf's greatest moves.
Through three weeks, Green leads the NFL in rushing with 326 yards and trails only Marshall Faulk of St. Louis in total yards from scrimmage with 451. More and more, it's beginning to look as if the Packers obtained a franchise running back for a cornerback they regarded as too timid for their defense.
"Ahman can be as good as he wants to be," Favre says. "He can be like Marshall Faulk. Marshall Faulk is as complete a player as I've ever seen, but Marshall Faulk doesn't have the power or burst that Ahman has."
Already, Green is treading on some hallowed ground in Green Bay.
Last season, he became the first Packer since 1977 to lead the franchise in both rushing (1,175 yards) and receptions (73). His rushing total was the fourth highest in club annals, and this year he became the first running back in Green Bay history to open a season with back-to-back 100-yard games, gaining 157 against Detroit and 116 against Washington.
Before Green, the last Packer to lead the league in rushing after any week was John Brockington in 1971.
Green didn't ascend to featured-back status until Dorsey Levens suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 8 last season. In 11 starts since, Green has rushed for an average of 99.6 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry while scoring 12 total touchdowns. He also proved his ability to run inside as well as outside by converting 12 of 13 third-and-1 situations last season, the highest percentage among NFL running backs.
All of his stunning success doesn't seem to have gone to Green's head. Green Bay fans have taken to the Omaha native because he's unfailingly humble, relishes hard work, and wants to be among them.
That's the main reason why Green signed a five-year, $17.5 million contract in late July instead of waiting to become an unrestricted free agent next March.
"I honestly didn't want to be put out on the market because I love Green Bay," Green says. "I love this city. It reminds me so much of Lincoln. This [Packers football] is it in Green Bay, Wisconsin."
What separates Green from many running backs is his combination of great speed and power, especially in his legs. He's a blue-collar style runner with top-end burst, improving elusiveness, and tremendous work habits.
On the Packers' fifth play from scrimmage against the Lions, Green ran through safety Tommy Bennett in the hole and accelerated through the secondary for a 31-yard touchdown. A few minutes later, he spun off linebacker Stephen Boyd and defensive tackle Kelvin Pritchett at the line, set sail around the corner, and blazed 83 yards for another score.
Wolf and Favre compare Green to former Raiders running back Bo Jackson.
"He's similar in strength and speed," Wolf says. "I was always fascinated by Green's speed. I was at his school workout and his times were unreal."
Green left Nebraska after three seasons with 3,880 rushing yards, second only to Mike Rozier in school history. During his campus workout, he clocked as low as 4.22 seconds and as high as 4.32 seconds on two 40-yard dashes.
The fastest back in the 10 NFL drafts before 1998 was UCLA's Gaston Green (no relation), who clocked 4.31 at the 1988 scouting combine. But Green, taken by the Los Angeles Rams with the 14th overall selection that year, was tiny by comparison at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. Ahman Green is 5'-11" and a multi-muscled 220.
"I've been around some bigger backs and some smaller ones, but to me he's the ideal combination of size, strength, quickness, and speed that I've been around," says Packers offensive line coach Larry Beightol, a 17-year NFL assistant. "The players love to block for this guy. They realize what they have. He has a chance every time to break one on you."
Ahman Green Video Highlights