Roy Calvin Green (1957–)

Once described by Sports Illustrated as the most versatile player in professional football, Arkansas native Roy Green became the first person in nearly twenty years to consistently play offense and defense during the same season in the National Football League (NFL).

Roy Calvin Green was born on June 30, 1957, in Magnolia (Columbia County) to Anderson and Austene Dockery. He had two younger sisters.

Green played basketball and ran track for Magnolia High School but did not join the football team until his junior year in 1973. In what foreshadowed his “two-way” role in the NFL, Green played six different positions for the Panthers, including spending time at kicker. He helped Magnolia win the 1974 AA state championship while earning all-state honors.

At the collegiate level, Green starred as defensive back and kick returner at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia (Clark County). He led the Reddies in interceptions three times and was named to three all-conference teams in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC). As team captain in 1978, Green led the AIC in interceptions and punt returns, earning All-American honors. Green’s teams at Henderson won two AIC championships and were a combined 35–7–1 (including a sterling 3–1 against rival Ouachita Baptist University in the Battle of the Ravine).

The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Green in the fourth round (number 89 overall) of the 1979 NFL draft. Green recounted his thrill of being selected years later to the Washington Post, saying that “for a guy from the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference, being drafted in the fourth round was like being a first-round draft pick.”

Green spent his first two years in the pros as a second-string safety and kick returner. However, injuries to Cardinal receivers in 1981 allowed Green an opportunity to play on offense, and he cemented himself into NFL lore only three games into the season. Against Washington, Green caught a fifty-eight-yard touchdown and intercepted a pass in a St. Louis victory. It was the first time a player caught and intercepted a pass in the same game since 1957. Green did it twice more during the season. Despite only starting two games in 1981, Green excelled as a two-way player. He finished the season with a career-high three interceptions, more than 700 yards receiving, catching four touchdowns, and leading the National Football Conference in yards-per-catch. Green’s surprise emergence was described as a “godsend” by NFL Films in its recap of the Cardinals’ 1981 season. As narrator Harry Kalas recounted, “In storybook fashion, Roy Green was transformed from an ordinary second-string player into pro-football’s Superman.”

Green became a full-time receiver during the NFL’s strike-shortened 1982 season. He became one of the game’s most dominant receivers over the next two years, earning the nickname “Jet Stream” for his blazing speed.

Green had a breakout season in 1983, when he caught seventy-eight passes for 1,227 yards and an NFL-best fourteen touchdowns. He was voted to the Pro Bowl and named a first-team all-pro by the Associated Press. Green provided an encore in 1984, leading the NFL with 1,555 receiving yards—the most since 1965, when Lance Alworth topped 1,600. Green’s efforts culminated in another trip to the Pro Bowl and all-pro honors.

Injuries hampered Green during the next few seasons, and he never returned to his Pro Bowl form. The Cardinals relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1988, and Green played with the team through 1990. He then signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, playing mostly as a reserve receiver before retiring after the 1992 season.

Green held several prominent receiving records for the Cardinals when he retired, including total yards (8,496), receptions (522), and touchdowns (69). Green’s name still dots the Reddies’ record book as well. He tied for first with the most interceptions in a season (9) and was listed second in career interceptions (23).

Green is a member of the Henderson Reddies Hall of Fame, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame, and the Cardinals Ring of Honor. In 2019, Magnolia High School retired Green’s No. 25 jersey. That same year, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette listed him as a defensive back on its all-time high school football team.

Green remained in Arizona after retiring from the NFL. He later became a radio analyst for the Cardinals.

For additional information:
Neff, Craig. “Return of the Triple Threat.” Sports Illustrated 55 (December 23, 1981): 73–74.

“Roy Green.” Pro-Football-Reference.com. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/G/GreeRo01.htm (accessed March 4, 2022).

“Roy Green Jersey Retirement Ceremony Set for MHS’ Homecoming.” Magnolia Banner-News, October 11, 2019. https://www.magnoliabannernews.com/news/2019/oct/11/roy-green-jersey-retirement-ceremony-set-mhs-homec/ (accessed March 4, 2022).

Somers, Kent. “Cardinals to Induct Roy Green into Ring of Honor.” Arizona Republic, May 10, 2016. https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nfl/cardinals/2016/05/10/cardinals-induct-roy-green-into-ring-honor/84207282 (accessed March 4, 2022).

Brandon Howard
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Last Updated: 03/04/2022

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