Allen Park — Moms, they have this way of knowing things. Maybe it's that maternal sixth sense. But Tion Green’s mom, she just might be psychic.
The Lions rookie running back talks to his mother, Leticia Strickland, every day. About a month back, she told Green he’d make his debut against Baltimore, would score a touchdown, and she was flying up from Florida to witness it.
Green thought she was joking.
“I’m like, ‘Mom, you’re talking crazy, what are you talking about? I don’t know when I’m going to be up,’ “ Green said.
But on Saturday, shortly after the Lions arrived at their team hotel in Baltimore, Green got a knock on his door. It was a member of the security staff, who let them know there was a woman downstairs claiming to be his mother.
Sure enough, there she was, sitting in a rental car, ready to take her son to PF Chang's for dinner. She had booked a flight, bought a ticket to the game, fulfilling her promise.
The next day, it was her prophecy that was fulfilled.
Green claims he didn’t know he was playing until 90 minutes before kickoff when the inactives are officially announced. But when he returned from his customary pregame workout, his jersey was in his locker. That’s when the undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati knew he’d make his debut after being a healthy scratch the first 11 games.
Even with starter Ameer Abdullah out, Green expected his role to be limited to special teams, with Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner shouldering running back duties. But early in second quarter, before the team’s third offensive possession, Caldwell walked up to Green on the bench.
“Hey, young fella, you ready?” Lions coach Jim Caldwell asked.
Green thought Caldwell was talking to fellow rookie Kenny Golladay, seated next to him on the bench, before the situation became clear.
As Green entered the field for his first play, guard T.J. Lang headbutted the young back and told him the team needed a spark. And that’s exactly what Green provided, racing around the left edge for a 33-yard gain with his first carry.
“The offensive the line did a phenomenal job,” Green said. “We were in the right game plan, the right scheme. It was designed all week, that play, outside zone. Kenny Golladay did a great job cracking Terrell Suggs, one of the greatest ever, (left tackle Taylor) Decker kicked his guy out, everybody else on the offensive line did a phenomenal job. I give the credit all to those guys.”
Green didn’t make good on his mom’s final prediction until the third quarter, when he again went around the left side for a six-yard touchdown, plowing through teammate Golden Tate to reach the pylon in the front corner of the end zone.
“Honestly, to tell you the truth, it was such a blur, I didn’t even see Golden,” Green said. “I didn’t realize I hit Golden until this morning when we were watching our film.”
It was Tate who made sure to snatch the ball back from the official, ensuring Green had a memento from his first NFL touchdown. He said that ball is going to his mom.
Green finished his debut outing with 11 carries for a team-high 51 yards.
“He ran pretty well,” Caldwell said after the game. “He had some pretty good runs out there, made some tough runs. His touchdown run was a very good run, and obviously, he had a pretty nice gain there coming off the left side. He did some nice things. He got his shoulders square, and I thought he did well.”
It’s unclear whether the performance will lead to a continued role in the Lions’ offense, but you can bet mom will be there again next week, when the
Lions travel to Tampa, a little more than two hours from where Green grew up and Strickland lives. He didn’t offer an exact number, but Green said expects a lot of friends and family in the stands for the game against the Bucs.
His biggest regret from his debut is he couldn’t do more to help his team win. But playing in front of his mom, who dreamed her son would play in the NFL, was a meaningful consolation prize.
“She was the happiest woman in the world,” he said. “That was my happy moment.”
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
Remaining games for top teams in the NFC playoff race:
Philadelphia (10-2): at Rams, at Giants, vs. Raiders, vs. Cowboys
Minnesota (10-2): at Panthers, vs. Bengals, at Packers, vs. Bears
New Orleans (9-3): at Falcons, vs. Jets, vs. Falcons, at Buccaneers
L.A. Rams (9-3): vs. Eagles, at Seahawks, at Titans, vs. 49ers
Carolina (8-4): vs. Vikings, vs. Packers, vs. Buccaneers, at Atlanta
Seattle (8-4): at Jaguars, vs. Rams, at Cowboys, vs. Cardinals
Atlanta (7-5): vs. Saints, at Buccaneers, at Saints, vs. Panthers
Detroit (6-6): at Buccaneers, vs. Bears, at Bengals, vs. Packers
Green Bay (6-6): at Browns, at Panthers, vs. Vikings, at Lions
Dallas (6-6): at Giants, at Raiders, vs. Seahawks, at Eagles