Half-Jock, Half-Nerd: Ahman Green’s Life in Green Bay
After retiring, the four-time Pro Bowl running back decided to stay in his adopted hometown, where he lives a life of peace, comic books and video games. And makes the occasional appearance in Batman films
The MMQB took a ride with Packer great Ahman Green to discuss his love for video games and comic books.
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When Ahman Green was traded to Green Bay from Seattle in 2000, he moved into a small duplex in neighboring De Pere and quickly bonded with his next-door neighbor Cody, a quiet eighth-grader. The common bond? Video games. The two would retire to each other’s basements regularly to play.
A decade and a half later, Green, 39, is in a new home, but his basement has barely changed. The elaborate setup still reflects the life of a well-rounded nerd. On top of being a serious gamer who schedules at least an hour a day of video game “practice” on his iPhone calendar, Green is also a comic book enthusiast, particularly Batman. His own Batcave has three screens and a leather gaming chair complete with lumbar back support. The shelf behind his chair is lined with game balls from his NFL career. Figurines—Harley Quinn, Luke Skywalker—stand atop each ball.
But the most interesting aspect of the Batcave isn’t what’s in it, but where it is. After retiring, Green, an Omaha native, stayed in his adopted home city of Green Bay. He operates the D1 Sports Training facility in Green Bay, is active in local media and with the Ahman Green Foundation and is a spokesman for the Wisconsin chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“When my old teammates come back into town for a game, I get the same question: ‘Dude, why are you still here?’” Green says. “For me, Green Bay is perfect, I’ve got a grocery store, I’ve got a mall, and I’ve got a movie theater.”
On a recent Tuesday, he pulls up in front of one of his favorite stores in Green Bay, Powers Comics, his lifted truck towering over the other vehicles. “They know when the big, black, iron truck pulls up what is about to go down,” he says with a laugh. Shortly after he walks in, store owner Dave Powers brings Green a plastic bin labeled, Ahman Green Box #178. A Batman comic book sits on top of stack. Green has come to pick up his subscriptions.
“I am half-jock, half-nerd, and so is he,” Powers says. Before he opened his store in 2007, Powers worked as a manager at Best Buy. “And guess who was there every New Release Tuesday? Ahman. He would have stacks of DVDs this high.”
The MMQB spent an afternoon with Green, the Packers’ all-time leadin to talk his gaming lifestyle, his film debut in Batman v Superman, and why he chose to make Green Bay his forever home.
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KAHLER: Why did you choose to stay in Green Bay after you retired?
GREEN: I get that question a lot. Even when my old teammates come back in town for a game, I get the same question, ‘Dude, why are you still here?’ Look, it’s either here or Nebraska, where I was born, and there’s not much difference in the scenery. Once I got drafted, in my head the plan was to stay in Seattle. That was my personal plan. I knew I could get hurt or traded and things could change. But in my head, I’m just thinking, live in Seattle and enjoy the technology boom out there. When I got traded everything shifted, so I just thought, hey, wherever I am at, I am going to make that home if it fits right. And it did. Even then, when I went to play in Houston, Green Bay still felt like home to me when I would fly back and check on the house. I’m from Omaha, Nebraska, and it always felt like home going back there because I was born there. I was actually raised in Los Angeles, so I bounced around places as a kid. I was talking to my friend the other night, and I said, shoot, Wisconsin has been the one state I have lived the longest in my life. Even though I am from Omaha, I lived 10 years there and 10 years in Los Angeles and about 16 here. And with the success of my [Packers] career it was a no-brainer from a business standpoint, with all my appearances and charity fundraisers. It has helped me progress my career after football.
KAHLER: What makes Green Bay so different from other NFL cities?
GREEN: The size. It’s small, and I think that is what wins out over the other cities. I grew up in L.A. where it was the Lakers, the Dodgers, the Rams, the Raiders, Kings, you can even count the Chargers in that mix too. To have that there kind of spoils the fans. Here in Green Bay we are a hundred miles from the Brewers and the Bucks, so everything is green and gold up here, and there’s so much tradition. Things that started way back in 1919 with Curly Lambeau, then Vince Lombardi came in later to win championships and the trophy is named after him. That tradition hit the community at a certain time where it basically feels like it is part of the fabric of Green Bay. There are generations upon generations that pass the season tickets down. Even in a divorce, they split those tickets, and that’s a big argument; it is hard to give up those Packers season tickets. It is the lifeblood of this community, and it is why Green Bay has a pulse. The guys that I played with, we all got real close with some of the fans, so the fans really not only experience it in the stands cheering for us, but actually hanging out with us. Breaking bread and enjoying a beer, a lot of fans can’t say that in bigger cities.
KAHLER: How often would you get recognized around town?
GREEN: Now, between having this truck and being in Green Bay for 16 years, people know it’s me. People stop at the bottom of my driveway and take pictures. My wife has a fit, like, why are they doing that? And I’m like, well we can’t stop ’em. It’s not a gated community, it is a public community. It’s Green Bay, word travels fast. You played here for 12 years and it’s really not a secret. When I played I ran into a lot of fans, but the thing is, they have been around the element so much that it is kind of like, Oh yeah, I saw Brett, or I saw Ahman. They are going to go a little star-struck and then understand that we have our privacy and they respect that. So the Green Bay fans here understand that. I got traded in 2000, and in 2001 I found out that the Milwaukee fan base is way crazier. In the late ’90s, the Packers used to split their home games. Two or three in Milwaukee, and they call the former Milwaukee season-ticket holders the gold package now, because Miller Park said there is going to be no football here. So with that, they split the home games into gold package games, where fans can come in from Milwaukee. And we found out they are the crazier fans. They party hard, because they don’t really get to see us, so they go bonkers. I remember one night that 2001 season, we check in at the Radisson Hotel, that’s where we stay the night before games, and it’s about 10:30 p.m. I am in my room watching a movie, and I hear a guy running up and down the hallway yelling, “Go Pack Go.” And we have security guards on our floor, there is supposed to be complete silence. So somebody snuck onto the floor, an excited fan, and he was banging on the guys doors trying to see who would open up so he could say hello. You could hear him running, and the security guard chasing him. The next morning I came down and was talking to one of the security guys, and he was like, man, every time we have one of these gold package games, with these Milwaukee fans, they don’t know how to act.
KAHLER: The African-American demographic in Green Bay is 3.5 percent of the city’s population. Did you experience a big adjustment to life in Green Bay?
GREEN: The way I was raised, and being in Los Angeles, a multicultural city and learning the people, the food, the culture and learning that stuff at a young age, I just kind of learned to adjust real easily. So being traded here and being from Omaha, Nebraska, is not that much different to me. That’s how I look at it. It wasn’t really an adjustment. Just like any move, O.K., where is the grocery store? Where is the post office? Where does my teammate stay? Where do they live in the neighborhood? That was it for me. In terms of a cultural thing, it is just interesting to see what is and what isn’t. How many black people I see here, or white, or Asian never really crossed my mind. For me it is just about people—are they nice to me? For other guys it was different, and it was a big adjustment. I remember when I first got there, the rookie class of 2000 and all the classes that came in, it would take them awhile to get used to it because they were coming from Texas or USC or Florida or Miami. They would go on Monday right after an early-kickoff game and get down to Milwaukee because they wanted to get to more people. It was just too small of a town, not much to do here. For me, it’s perfect, I’ve got a grocery store, I’ve got a mall, and I’ve got a movie theater. It was just adjusting to being back in the Midwest rather than on the West Coast. More snow, less rain than Seattle. But now there are a few more barber shops, a few more places to get hair braided or twists for dreadlocks, there are a couple more soul food places, so it is steadily growing year by year. Back then in 2000, you see a black guy walking down the street and you assume he is going to be a football player. It’s a good and a bad thing all at the same time, but it is just part of the way of life here.
KAHLER: When you first heard you were getting traded to Green Bay, what went through your mind?
GREEN: First was disbelief because I had no idea it was coming. My dad had called me the day I got traded and said, ‘Son, turn to ESPN, you are a Packer.’ I’m like, what? I had no idea it was coming. Green Bay, I thought, well, I know they were just at the Super Bowl a couple years ago. They won one, they lost one, they have a pretty darn good quarterback and some wide receivers.
KAHLER: You made an appearance in Batman v Superman, but your scene was cut from the final version shown in theaters. (The scene is included in the extended edition.) How did you land that role?
GREEN: The director, Zack Snyder, is from Green Bay, and we met through a friend of mine who interned on one of his sets. And he said, We have to get you in one of the movies! I saw Michael Keaton on the big screen in Los Angeles when I was 12 in 1989 and from then on, I was a Batman fan for life. Then I got into the comic books and the cartoons, stuff that doesn’t come in theaters, and that’s where the fascination became more of an obsession and understanding of what made Batman. What I like is the human element. He is not far from where I am as a person. Everybody has struggles and tragedies in their life, so to overcome that and do what he does is great. So Zack was working on Batman v Superman and was able to get me in a scene. My role was Thug No. 2. It was set in a jail scene and I had to hand off the shank to my co-partner. I helped shank a guy, which from a comic book stance, I am very proud of. I helped shank a guy, and we did it real incognito so we didn’t get busted by the guards, and it went down.
KAHLER: Did you get star-struck on the set?
GREEN: Yes, we shot my scene in Detroit and I tried to fight one of the designers to see the Batmobile early, because it was in the room right there. I was like, You can’t do that to me! I get star struck over comic books, so I understood how Packer fans flip out when they see me, because that’s how I felt when I met Ben [Affleck] for the first time, and it wasn’t Ben as Ben, it was Ben being Bruce Wayne in the Batman costume. In the desert scene, he was in the Batman trenchcoat and I was like, ‘What’s up Ben, how are you doing?’ I sat in the corner like a little five-year-old, like that’s Ben Affleck in the Batman costume! Oh my god! I couldn’t help it. I now know what Packers fans feel like when they met me.
KAHLER: What did you think of your “co-star,” Ben Affleck as Batman? Who is your favorite actor to have played the role of Batman?
GREEN: Ben did a great job, and not just because I met him and got a chance to hang out with him. I went into it with an open mind, I knew that he developed Argo, he’s been getting better at writing and directing, so I knew that we might get a show. And we did. I can’t wait for Justice League and other ones coming down the line. Thumbs up, an “A” for Ben Affleck, the newest Bruce Wayne. My favorite all time Batman was Michael Keaton, because that was the first one I saw.
KAHLER: Along with comic books, you’re also big into video games. What are you favorite games to play?
GREEN: What don’t I play? My favorites are Halo and Madden, and I am actually getting pretty good at Call of Duty. I don’t have the new one yet—Infinite Warfare—but I play Black Ops III and I am getting good at that and I should be, because I play other shooters, so I should be good at that one. Gears of War, Batman Arkham Night series, I play that and beat all of them, Battlefield I, FIFA. The gaming and eSports world blew up here in Green Bay two or three years ago, but now it is here to stay and it is growing very fast. I hope one day there is, like, an eSports Olympics or something. I plan to be a decathlete if there ever is an eSports Olympics because I play more than one genre of game. I play all of the genres. The only genre I need to get under my belt are the MMOs [massively multiplayer online games], like World of Warcraft. I haven’t really got into that. For my nephews who play World of Warcraft, they say, Uncle, that is a time commitment, you have to be sitting in that game and build out your characters and your groups and your teams. It is a lot going on, so right now I am definitely all sports. I play UFC 2 as well.
KAHLER: You call yourself a decathlete. How do you divide up your training to make sure you are playing all the different types of games? Do you have a schedule?
KAHLER: When you play online, do people you play ever find out you are Ahman Green? What is your gamer tag?
GREEN: It only happens when I actually say who I am. You have a gamer tag, it is anonymous and you can have any name you want. What I like to see is the creativity in gamertags. Mine is batmanAG30.
KAHLER: Do you go to any gaming conferences or conventions?
GREEN: Yes. In my career I got paid to do marketing stuff, I know a lot just by osmosis of watching my agents negotiate, so I started going to video game events, to network with people and market myself. I went to E3, Electronic Entertainment Expo out in L.A., I went to my first PAX West convention in Seattle this past September. I’ve been going to Comic-Con, that’s the one thing about me and my family, we go to Comic-Con every year. I usually dress as Batman, but I am a Star Wars guy too and with all the Star Wars stuff coming out in the next five or six years, I may come as Vader for 2017 Comic-Con. I have a Vader mask and Storm Trooper helmets. My stepdaughter, she is with me, she is in the force. The force is strong with her. She did cosplay, and she had a white storm trooper helmet with a white suit. It was awesome. It’s in San Diego and that’s like the Super Bowl of Comic-Cons. People come from all over to go to it.
KAHLER: Have you won money from tournaments?
GREEN: No. I have placed. My best finish was eighth at PAX West, in a Tekken 7 tournament, that game is not out yet, it’s coming out. I have not bought a video game in years. If I could just get free video games for the rest of my life, I would die a very, very happy man, which I have been, so I have no complaints here. I give my feedback on the games, I broadcast their stuff, I talk about it and I get the games free.
KAHLER: Gaming is now a widespread hobby, and it’s lost a lot of the nerdy reputation it once had. When you were in the NFL, what did your teammates think of your hobby?
GREEN: More guys were just into the comic stuff, like the Batman stuff that I was into. I could relate to more of my teammates that way. I know Brett [Favre], he was into Superman, so he understood that. But the video game thing, for me, that was the thing I did. There were a few guys that played Madden, Robert Ferguson was one. We would go at it and he would beat me up. Donald Driver—he’s not going to like me saying this—but he heard that me and Robert had played. Robert beat me and Donald played with him back and forth so he thought he could beat me too. He told me, ‘If Robert smoked you, I’m going to smoke you, I’m going to beat you down, Ahman.’ I’m like, Alright, cool, I’m coming to your house. We’re going to play on your turf, in your territory. I am going to be the away guy. I went there and smoked Donald at his place, and we haven’t played since. At the time I played in the NFL it was just me and handful of guys who were into video games on each team. I would say now, there’s 53 active players and I would say more than half of the team plays video games or PC games. It is common. We had an Xbox set up in the locker room when I was here, but it would just kind of get dusty because just me and a couple guys would play in the lounge or go over to each other’s houses or play online against each other.
KAHLER: Did you ever take issue with your Madden rating?
GREEN: There have been a couple times where I said, Y’all trippin’ at EA. I had to call them. The first time it came up, I was at the ’01 or ’02 Super Bowl at a Microsoft event promoting Xbox when it first came out. EA was there, and I started talking to EA guys and I said, Hey! Who are the developers? Where are the guys that did the coding? I need to talk to them. Y’all are tripping. Y’all got me fumbling every other play. That doesn’t happen. I don’t drop the ball, and I’m faster. I don’t get caught from behind. So they fixed that, and they fixed the fumbling. They didn’t really know I played Madden, but I played because guys were telling me, Dude, they’ve got you fumbling all the time. I’m about to go in for a touchdown and it’s boop, fumble! No, they had to strip the ball and grasp it from my dying arms for me to fumble the ball. So I fixed that with EA. Me and EA are on good terms now.
KAHLER: How seriously do you take your gaming?
GREEN: I don’t just talk about it, I’m about it. And that’s what you’ve got to do. For any pro athlete—baseball, football, basketball, UFC fighters—if you say you’re a gamer, you better be legit. They will call you out on it if you are not. You can’t just have football credit or NBA credit, no, if you say you play video games, you better play video games and show up and prove it at a tournament, or convention, you better say it and walk it. You gain respect that way.
KAHLER: Do you share your love of comics with the next generation?
GREEN: I have two nieces, a nephew and a godson, they are all around the same age, 7-8 years old. So I’ve been sending them a series of Teen Titans, Scooby Doo, Ninja Turtles and Plants vs. Zombies. I am bringing them along, bringing them on strong. I send them Marvel one month, DC stuff the next, stickers, keychains. I’m limited because they are kids, because of some of the stuff I read is graphic, so I can’t wait until they are freshmen in high school and I can start sending them the good stuff I have.
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