When Earnest Greene III started playing tackle football as an 8-year-old, he was so big he played against 11-year-olds. When he was 9, he played against 12-year-olds. At 17, he’s 6 feet 5, 330 pounds and perhaps the best offensive tackle at Bellflower St. John Bosco High since Wyatt Davis, The Times’ player of the year in 2016.
What’s so intriguing about Greene isn’t necessarily his size or athleticism. It’s his self-confidence and comfort level in fulfilling the sometimes invisible role of a lineman. Since he started playing football, he wasn’t one of those kids dreaming of scoring touchdowns or playing for fan attention. He was content blocking for those players.
“My dad always preached to me self confidence from a young age,” he said. “I always walked around with my chest out. I always had the mind set I can go in there and no matter what, do my job. I was always going to be a lineman. I always wanted to put my hand in the dirt.”
Greene’s father, Earnest Jr., grew up in Savannah, Ga., was a 6-8 lineman at Savannah State, played for the Chargers from 1993-95 and retired from football in 2001. He was part of a Chargers team that made it to the Super Bowl in 1994.
It’s clear how much influence the elder Greene had on his son.
“I’ve never been a person who needed reassurance from another person,” Greene said. “I just know if I do my job, that’s all I got to do. People that know football and know how valuable an offensive lineman is, that’s all I really need to know that the people who actually know the sport know how important the job is.”
At St. John Bosco, the Braves know the importance of the offensive line. It has been the key to winning championships and having Greene as the left offensive tackle will make St. John Bosco a prime contender to reach the Southern Section Division 1 championship game for an eighth consecutive season. Yes, every playoff season since going 16-0 in 2013, the Braves have made the section final under coach Jason Negro. No team in Southern California has reached that level of consistency.
On Friday night, the No. 2-ranked Braves (5-0) face No. 1 Santa Ana Mater Dei (3-0) in Bellflower in a Trinity League opener that sold out the remaining 2,500 tickets in four minutes when they went on sale Monday. The rivals have met in every Division 1 final since 2016 and there’s no reason to think this won’t be the first of two meetings this season. Greene has not committed to a college with Clemson, USC, Georgia and others trying to lock him up.
During a six-game spring season, the Braves went 5-1 and Greene said he was just grateful to play after the many delays because of COVID-19 protocols.
“I’m just thankful for anything we get because it was real dark and ugly in the room for a little bit,” he said. “Honestly I just love football. It’s great to be flying around with the guys again.”
As for what makes Greene a productive blocker, it starts with his athleticism and continues with his strength. He has bench-pressed 405 pounds and has a maximum squat of 585 pounds. Those who think quickness can help them get past Greene have learned he’s not so easy to elude.
“I was always taught if you can’t get to the battle, you can’t fight, so you have to get your feet into the fight,” he said. “I always use my feet and hands. Hand placement is real big for the faster guys. Strength fits into everything you do as a lineman, particularly run blocking. Flexibility, strength and explosion. You have to come out of your stance, roll your hips and move somebody as big and strong as you.”
When buffets went away during COVID-19 restrictions, Greene and other linemen were not pleased. Buffets are slowly making a comeback, and if you can trust anything, it’s that Greene has a sizable appetite.
He loves rib-eye steak and tells the story of consuming a 36-ounce steak after returning from a plane fight.
Asked how long he took to eat it, Greene said, “15 to 20 minutes. It was real good.”
Watching Greene eat and block are two must-see moments.