LAKE FOREST – Forgive Khaseem Greene if he experiences déjà vu this weekend.
Four years ago, Greene was a redshirt freshman at Rutgers waiting to play in his first college game against the Cincinnati Bearcats. This week, Greene is a Bears rookie waiting to play in his first NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
As the Bears’ fourth-round draft pick (No. 117 overall), Greene figures to play on special teams while providing depth at weak-side linebacker behind Lance Briggs. The Bears drafted Greene and fellow linebacker Jon Bostic with the long-term goal of replenishing a position that long has been a strength on the lakefront.
Greene, 24, is hungry to make his NFL debut. But he’s not hungry for pancakes (you’ll soon understand why).
Musick: I want to know about your first game as a college freshman. Did you have any idea what was going on?
Greene: (smiles) Yeah, I knew what was going on. I had redshirted, and basically what had happened is a couple of guys got hurt against Cincinnati. I believe it was 2009. New stadium, everything. A couple of guys went down, I went in.
I can remember being very nervous. I can remember saying to myself how big they were and how fast they were. And then I got pancaked on a screen play. This is when I was [playing] safety. So here I am, a little safety, trying to play the screen, trying to take on a big linemen, and he just flat out pancaked me.
Musick: Is it fun to look back at that moment now?
Greene: Yeah, definitely. It’s fun now looking back at it. It wasn’t fun then, but it’s fun now.
Musick: What was your heart rate when you took the field for the first time? That crowd had to look huge compared with a few hundred people at a high school game.
Greene: Well, I was fortunate to go to what was considered a powerhouse where I’m from, so we had big crowds. [Editor’s note: Greene played at Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth, N.J.] At our state championship game our senior year, there might have been like 15,000 people there. We played at Rutgers. But it was nothing like HighPoint Solutions Stadium when I stepped on the field as a freshman.
Musick: So when you look at this upcoming first game…
Musick: … Are you ready to embrace it all over again?
Greene: It’s going to be a phenomenal moment for me in my life. It’s been a dream for me. Eight years ago, I was just dreaming about this day. And it’s finally going to be here. I’m fortunate to have my family, my mom, who I owe a lot of credit to, is going to be in attendance, as well as some of my other family members. For them to see that and for her to see that is going to be big. Because I know how her emotions are going to be. It’s going to be big.
Musick: Have you asked your teammates about what to expect?
Greene: I actually was just talking to my coach about it. I’ve listened to what they say, but I’m going to get a little bit of one-on-one right now in the locker room. Ask around, ask a couple of the older guys that are in the linebacker room with me about what to expect and how they handled it their rookie year.
Musick: You’re not a little safety anymore, but if you see a Cincinnati Bengals lineman sprinting up field trying to pancake you…
Greene: (laughs) Nah. I’ve got to hit him. I’ve got to hit him. I’m definitely not going to get pancaked. That’s the goal.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.