Twenty minutes outside of Pittsburgh lies West Mifflin Area High School. Five years ago, Slippery Rock University senior Shamar Greene was a senior at West Mifflin with dreams of taking his talents to the next level. Unfortunately for Greene, he had no colleges willing to take a chance on him and had to walk on to the SRU football program.
Since he has walked on, Greene has not only earned a scholarship but has proven his worth as SRU’s all time leading rusher.
“It’s my determination, focus, and perseverance,” Greene said. “I was just willing to get through anything and everything in my way.”
Greene, a starter since his redshirt freshman season in 2013, has run for 4201 yards (and counting) in his five seasons for The Rock. He broke the record in week two against the West Chester University Golden Rams in a 36-28 victory.
Greene is a two-time all-American and a back-to-back Harlon Hill award nominee in the 2014 and 2015 seasons being recognized as one of the top players in the nation.
Though Greene’s accolades are a result of his hard work and dedication to the game, he credits a love for the city he grew up in, his high school, and the program that gave him a chance for the continuation of his success and reminder to keep pushing harder.
“I love where I come from,” Greene said. “I love Duquesne, I love West Mifflin, and I love Slippery Rock. At the end of the day, I’m happy where I’m at today.”
Greene’s contributions to The Rock are not just from taking a handoff out of the backfield. He is one of five West Mifflin players on the Slippery Rock roster. Record-breaking redshirt junior defensive end Marcus Martin, senior safety Derrick Fulmore, redshirt junior offensive lineman Jim Popa, and senior defensive back Brandon Sacco are all former West Mifflin teammates Greene.
Popa, now on scholarship, and Sacco were walk-ons to the team. Fulmore and Martin were signees to 2013 recruiting class. Most of the players agree that Greene was a big contribution to the reason they all ended up at The Rock. Fulmore said that he didn’t know too much about Slippery Rock until Greene.
“I would go to Shamar and access him about the team and what it was like because in high school, our team were brothers,” Fulmore said. “We all did the same things together and that’s what I wanted in college. He said it was the same thing here.”
Fulmore continues to try to keep that atmosphere. Even with the offensive and defensive split, Fulmore said he enjoys watching Popa block for Greene when the offense is out, but likes to celebrate with Martin after an interception or sack.
West Mifflin has made its presence known on the team. They brought their brotherhood that Greene said began as early as middle school for some of them and helped make it a part of the Slippery Rock environment. They are leaders on their team. Greene and Fulmore are two out of the four Rock captains, and four out of the five West Mifflin graduates are starters with noteworthy accolades. Fulmore received all-Region honors in 2014. Martin is an all-American record breaker.
Martin broke the Slippery Rock all-time career sacks record in week one against the University of New Haven and went on to break the PSAC record against West Chester the following week. If he continues on the path he is going and decides to return for his final season next year, it is a very high possibility he will end his career as the all-time sack leader in NCAA history.
With players that have made such a huge impact on a consistently, nationally ranked program, it’s surprising so many have slipped under the radars of division I schools. Martin said it is because they are selfish and don’t see potential.
“I think it’s our size,” Martin said. “A lot of schools they don’t see your work ethic, heart, and love for the game, and that’s one thing we definitely have.”
Rock head coach Shawn Lutz said he is happy to take them if big schools don’t. Getting athletes from West Mifflin was a big part of The Rock’s “back yard” recruiting strategy.
Lutz said he is most proud of what they have overcome. From Greene and Popa becoming scholarship athletes after walking on, Martin redshirting his first year, and Fulmore transitioning from a high school quarterback to a college safety, he said that represents the work ethic of West Mifflin.
“There is no question that they are Division I football players,” Lutz said. “Those guys are driven to be great and have a relentless attitude.”
With the regular season only at its halfway point and more records to be broken, Greene and his fellow West Mifflin graduates have a lot of work to do. He said that they will continue to all progress together. For him, it is what football West Mifflin is all about.
“We stick together,” Greene said. “At West Mifflin it felt like a brotherhood. Since they took their visit and I took mine, it was a brotherhood. It’s just a brotherhood through in and out, and we just have to keep that going.”