While JMU’s Division I-leading 26 games may be the most celebrated streak by the Dukes’ fans, it pales in comparison to an unrivaled stretch held by the father of JMU’s all-time interceptions leader.
Rasean Greene hasn’t missed a single down his son Raven Greene has played since the day the redshirt senior safety first tossed a purple and gold jersey on over his pads.
“I have an agreement: they suit up, I suit up,” Rasean said. “I can’t play a down for him, I can’t help him do another pushup, or pullup, but I can show him ‘hey you know what? You’re loved.’ It’s that sort of thing that made my life and this experience really, really special.”
Raven first discovered his fervent passion for football as a kid when Rasean explained to him that a childhood car accident kept him from ever playing a single snap. Living in New York City at the time, Rasean was attempting to cross the street as he was struck by a car. He was told he would never walk again, and that his leg would need to be amputated.
Despite the grim prospect, Rasean’s grandmother visited him in the hospital every day and reminded him, ‘you’re going to leave here with every limb you came in with.’ While Rasean successfully turned his grandmother’s vision into reality and slowly progressed to be able to walk again, playing a sport as physical as football was simply out of the question.
Instead, Raven plays it for him.
“I go out and play every single down for him just because I know he never had the chance to,” Raven said.
Despite the seemingly impractical notion of traveling around the country each weekend, Raven never had to take the field without the person he was playing for — even if that meant Rasean had to travel from Hampton, Virginia, to New Hampshire on his birthday to watch a game in 16-degree weather. This goal has been made attainable by the recognition of this inseparable bond by the Greenes’ friends and relatives, such as when the owner of the company Rasean works for offered to pay for the Greene family’s airplane tickets and lodging to travel to Fargo, North Dakota, for the FCS Semifinal game last season.
“It’s hard to describe in any other terms other than it’s almost a mold of me, and he, together,” Rasean said. “That’s how connected we feel. When he’s not himself, I sense it. It’s not one of those things where I wonder what’s wrong with my kid. I feel it like he feels it — and that’s from early on because we’re so alike in so many ways.”
Perched in the Dukes’ secondary as Raven awaits the snap, he never has to wonder where his father is — nor does seemingly anyone in the JMU fan section. Rasean takes pride in leading the charge — hooting and hollering before and after each play to engage the fans to help encourage and propel the team.
“I’ve had games — no matter where we go — I’ve been voted the most valuable fan by the opposing team at the end of the games,” Rasean said. “Some of the JMU parents come up to me and say ‘we missed hearing your voice today’ because almost every game, I go hoarse. Just like [the players] lay it out, I lay it out. They need us to give them that energy, they need us to be there when they get down on themselves.”
With every howl of fortification, Raven is reminded of the values his father has instilled in him since his days of mixing it up in sandlot football as a child.
“In general you think of a father as being a life coach too,” Raven said. “It’s been a crazy alignment — all the values that he’s taught me ringing true later on in my life. I’m using those same ones to guide me and they definitely helped me get to this point and I just cannot thank him enough.”
While Raven’s fans optimistically anticipate that he’ll continue to channel these values into his career as a professional football player, the Dukes’ most formidable safety is considering plans to follow in his father’s footsteps after he’s unlaced the spikes for the final time.
“Raven is a very, very complex kid,” Rasean said. “He’s a critical thinker, he plays with his heart on his sleeve. His passions seem to be in sync with mine — a natural curiosity for the body. He’s a very giving person in nature, and very caring. In that, those opportunities as far as careers [in physical therapy] line up with being able to exercise those characteristics more freely.”
Despite the looming inquiries from agents concerning Raven’s plans, his future can take the backburner for the time being. For tomorrow, there’s a game to be played.
“He’s a diehard fan and an even better dad,” Raven said. “It’s going to be a sea of purple in full effect with my dad leading the charge.”