Aaron Greene
Aaron Greene
Warsaw’s Aaron Greene has stepped up in critical roles on both offense and defense for the Tiger football team to spell injured teammates during the past two games. He engineered two touchdown drives in the second half at quarterback to hold off a hard-charging Elkhart Memorial comeback.

The following week, Greene stepped up on the defensive side of the ball at cornerback when he snared a pass in the opponent’s end zone, initiating the reversed fortunes of the Northridge Raiders. The Tigers erased a 13-0 deficit with 28 unanswered points. They now sit 4-1 with a No. 10 ranking in the state Associated Press Class 6A football poll.

He woke up on game day prior to facing Northridge thinking, lightheartedly, “What if I get an interception?”

“It gave me goose bumps thinking about it. I just wanted to play some football and my teammates put me in a position to make a big play Friday night. It was surreal and awesome all at the same time,” he said.

The story of his recent crucial contributions started in October 2018 when Greene was the back-up varsity quarterback. Aaron, then a sophomore, was with his teammates on the field after a tough 16-7 sectional loss to Penn. Players exchanged tears, handshakes and hugs before their final moments on the field. Senior QB Josh West, the starter, walked up to Greene. They hugged.

“It’s all you now, dude.” West said after the embrace.

Greene said “from that point on I felt like I lifted harder and watched film more closely than I ever had before.”

Fast forward to May. Greene was playing centerfield when he collided at a very high speed with his left fielder while diving for a ball. The collision hit Greene’s abdomen hard enough to cause internal bleeding. His family took him to a local hospital and were informed the bleeding was severe, and he had ruptured his spleen.

Greene was immediately flown to Fort Wayne with a trauma team of surgeons and nurses awaiting him. The team treated him swiftly, and when it was time to discuss the next steps the multi-sport athlete’s first question was how soon he could get back on the field.

“My approximation would be about six months,” Greene recalled the surgeon saying.

The news hit Greene hard. He did some easy math, and he realized the projected recovery time consequently wiped out the regular football season.

“Other than the pain it was the first time I cried, and I had a really emotional response because I was thinking about the news that I wasn’t going to be playing football.”

Greene spent the next 5½ days in the hospital. Teammates, friends, family and coaches came to visit and provide love, support and encouragement. Tiger head football coach Bart Curtis visited Aaron in the hospital with an encouraging testimony about a player who was out for an entire season who came back to earn all-state honors at running back in his senior year.

Better news came soon after that visit.

“One week later we had a different trauma surgeon giving me news that I might be able to return to action in three months. I immediately started asking a lot of questions about restrictions, and I wanted to know everything regarding the path to getting back in action as quickly as I could. I also wanted to comply with all the restrictions.”

A ruptured spleen must not be aggravated by any blunt force trauma to the abdomen, and most of Greene’s recovery ran parallel to summer football camps and practices, and an additional physical activity Greene has participated in for many years; waterskiing in themed shows and competitions for the Lake City Skiers.

“I do wake boarding, I go on the jumps occasionally, I lift my sister up and do all sorts of poses, and I build pyramids,” he said. “Following the doctors’ advice took a lot of self-control for me during ski season.”

Instead, Greene worked with sound, computers and performed set-up and tear-down duties within prescribed weight restrictions. It wasn’t just busy work to throw him a bone, nor to keep him from yearning for a few trips around the lake. The pre- and post-show logistics are part of the judging and scoring process in show waterskiing.

“I learned how much goes into show skiing. It really opened my eyes to what happened behind the scenes. I did some acting on land and I got to work with my dad a little bit,” he said.

Greene turned his restrictions into learning moments. The challenge of such focus despite being sidelined transitioned to continued engagement on light duty during summer football practices. He had a chance to see the nuances of opponents’ defenses and the decision points as an option quarterback while he eagerly awaited clearance for contact Aug. 6.

“Now I just want to help anywhere I can,” he said. “I’m so glad to be on the field at split end, quarterback, defensive back, wherever I’m needed.”

“I want people to know it’s important not to ever give up, no matter what kind of activity you’re in; school, work or athletics, just do the best you can. The biggest thing of all, be a team player.”

Greene demonstrated a “team first” mindset on the field the last two weeks in fine fashion. Now Tiger football coaches can feel a little more relieved in the wake of unexpected and unwelcome injuries to his teammates.