The Right Fit: How Vanderbilt Football landed DT Derek Green over Oklahoma


Photo via 247 Sports

Cutler Klein, Sports Editor

Three-star defensive lineman prospect Derek Green stepped onto the campus of the University of Oklahoma this January as an early enrollee on the Sooners’ football team under Head Coach Lincoln Riley.

However, something wasn’t right. Even though he was coming into a program that had just played in the College Football Playoff, he didn’t feel like it was the place for him.

Then, he remembered what the coaches at Vanderbilt told him when he visited campus during his recruitment process.

“When I came to Vanderbilt for the first time, I knew this was the place,” Green told The Vanderbilt Hustler. “I just felt like this was the place, but at the same time, I was committed to Oklahoma for about a year. I said I would go there, but when I got there, I didn’t really have the same feeling that I had during recruitment. No matter when, when I got to Vanderbilt it was the same thing. They always told me that if something didn’t go right, I could always go back. That’s what I did.”

After returning for a visit during Vanderbilt Football’s spring game this past weekend, Green decided to transfer out of Oklahoma after just three months and come to Vanderbilt. To the outside world, flipping from a blue blood of college football like Oklahoma to a place like Vanderbilt might seem like a strange decision.

However, as Green said, West End felt like home to him, and Head Coach Derek Mason’s program felt like the place for him.

“This was my second time visiting Vanderbilt this weekend, but the four total days that I have been there, there wasn’t a day where I felt out of place,” Green said. “There wasn’t a day that I felt different than anybody. Coach Mason told me he was extremely glad to see me, God knows I’m extremely glad to see him.”

One element of the program that stuck with Green was its ambition and lofty goals. He said the program seems to be charting a path for itself to achieve greatness on a national scale.

“Everybody’s goal is to win a national championship, and that’s on their mind too, but you have to start in smaller pieces,” Green said. “You can start by trying to win your division. They got to a bowl game last year, so now you can start by trying to win your division. When you win your division, you can try to go to a New Year’s Six bowl. After you get to a New Year’s Six bowl, you can try and win a national championship. Things like that. It’s what they’re striving to be, and the process is going to be amazing.”

Standing at 6’5” 290 lbs., Green will join this Commodore team as one of the biggest defensive lineman on the roster. Only sophomore Tyler Steen, standing at 6’5” 302 lbs., matches Green’s measurements on the defensive line. Green will have the chance to get the most out of his athletic frame by learning from interim defensive line coach Jovan Haye, who played at Vanderbilt and had a successful career in the NFL.

Green lauded Haye’s credentials and is excited to get to work with him when he gets to campus.

“When you talk about somebody like Coach Haye, oh my gosh, there is not a better dude in coaching,” Green said. “You can’t get a better defensive line coach than Coach Haye. He brings the energy, he brings the excitement, but at the same time, he’s going to treat you just like you’re his little brother. He’s going to talk to you and you’re going to do football, but when football’s over, he’s going to treat you just like a little brother. When you come back to a meeting, he’s going to get you right, he’s going to teach you the tools, he’s been to the NFL, he’s done everything he needs to do.”

As of now, Green said he expects to be eligible to play immediately despite technically transferring schools. The NCAA has not sent him any notice regarding any time he would have to miss due to transfer rules, or any subsequent waiver process.

Even though he had the chance to be a part of one of the most storied football programs in the country, Green is thrilled for the opportunity to be a Commodore. Even though there will be voices that are puzzled by his decision, he isn’t paying them any mind.

Much like many other Vanderbilt athletes that have come before him, Green is charting his own path.

“You’ve got to be chippy, you’ve got to be scrappy and all of those things, but at the same time, what I’ve learned is you can’t try to be like everybody else,” Green said. “You’ve got to be who you know you can be. You’ve got to do the things you know your team can do.”

“When we figure those things out, we’re going to be very successful and I think the time is coming very soon.”