SAN ANTONIO — Athletic coordinator at Young Men’s Leadership Academy since it opened five years ago, Tony Green was the overwhelming choice to be the Lions’ first head coach.
Todd Howey, athletic director of the San Antonio ISD, figures it couldn’t have been any other way.
“It was a no-brainer,” Howey said Tuesday. “Without Tony being on that campus from the get-go, we probably wouldn’t be where we are right now. Tony has worked behind the scenes at developing a great athletic program, getting kids involved and getting the numbers up.
“Tony is a level-headed, creative leader. He is the same person, up or down. He has great energy and the thing he does so well is that he really understands the role of the student-athlete.”
Green, 32 was named YMLA’s first head football coach last week. The Lions, who won’t have a senior class until the 2021-22 school year, will kick off their first varsity season in August.
YMLA will play in District 14-4A Division II, which includes state powers Navarro and Wimberley. Austin Achieve, Austin Eastside Memorial and Manor New Tech round out the six-team district.
“We’re going to have our challenges, no doubt about it,” Howey said. “We’ll have growing pains, but I’m excited and the main thing is we’re giving some kids a great opportunity to participate. I think we’ll be more competitive than people think.”
The Lions start their first varsity season against Randolph on Aug. 27 at Alamo Stadium. They played a junior varsity schedule last year.
“We started off with fourth through sixth grade, so my original six-graders will be juniors this upcoming year,” Green said. “To see them develop, you see so much growth from year to year. A lot of them get stronger. A lot of them get faster. I’ve been there with them and have seen them grow up. I’m looking forward to see them continue to develop.”
YMLA is an SAISD all-boys charter school located in eastside San Antonio, and enrollment is open to students in the fourth through 11th grades. It is the only all-boys public school in Bexar County.
“Our academics are pretty rigorous,” Green said. “Pretty much, over 50 percent of our classes are pre-AP or AP (advanced placement). They’ve really got to get it in the classroom. We also hold our athletes to a higher standard. Instead of having a 70 average (to stay eligible), they’ve got to have a 75.”
YMLA opened in 2015 at what was formerly W.W. White Elementary School, and moved to the former campus of Wheatley Middle School in 2017.
Wheatley High School, which had an all-black enrollment and opened in 1933, also was at the same address until it closed after the 1969-70 school year. The Lions competed in the Prairie View Interscholastic League, which governed extracurricular activities for the state’s black schools.
“We took Wheatley’s mascot when we moved from W.W. White,” Green said. “I grew up hearing stories about Wheatley from my parents, and I know people took a lot of pride in the school. When I walk the halls now, I can feel the history.”
A 2006 Madison High School graduate, Green played football at Alabama A&M in Huntsville, Ala., for four seasons after being redshirted as a freshman. He graduated from Alabama A&M in December 2010, and started his coaching career two years later at Sam Houston High School in the SAISD.
Green was an assistant coach under his uncle, Gary Green, at Sam Houston for four seasons before becoming athletic coordinator at YMLA.
“We didn’t have any athletics that first year (2015-16) because we had only fourth through sixth grades,” Green said. “We added seventh graders the second year.”
Green is the oldest of three children, all males, born to Charlar and Tony Green Sr. Green’s father played football at Sam Houston with his older brother Gary, and the two also were teammates at Baylor. Tony Sr., now retired, also was a coach and teacher in the SAISD and ended his career as a counselor and attendance auditor at Sam Houston.
Tony II’s younger brothers, Andrew and Aaron, also were outstanding athletes at Madison before going on to play football collegiately. Andrew was a defensive back at Nebraska for four seasons (2010-13), and Aaron played running back for the Cornhuskers as a freshman in 2011. He transferred to TCU in 2012 and played three seasons (2013-15) with the Horned Frogs.
Andrew is preparing for his third year as an assistant coach at Everman High School in North Texas.
Gary Green was an All-America cornerback at Baylor as a senior in 1976, and was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 10th overall pick of the 1977 NFL Draft. A four-time Pro Bowler during his nine-year pro career, Green played seven seasons with the Chiefs and two with the Los Angeles Rams before a neck injury forced him to retire in 1986.
Gary Green’s son, Gary II, also was a standout running back at Madison and played college ball at Kansas for four seasons (2005-08).
“Growing up in that family, you were never short of mentors, or people to look up to,” Tony II said. “I was kind of a late bloomer. I grew up a little later. I looked up to Gary II. He showed me how important a good work ethic is.
“My dad and my uncle were great mentors to all of us. When I got to middle school, I started working out with my uncle and my dad. They really showed me the ropes as far as how to work hard and achieve, and reach for goals to make yourself better. They taught me how to be a good leader."
Green said that coaching with his uncle at Sam Houston was a valuable experience.
"The biggest thing I learned from coaching under him was the importance of my role as a coach and the impact you have on molding young men," he said. "So many times I have heard ex-athletes talk about him and the positive impact he has had on their lives."
The football bloodlines run deeper in the Green family. Gary Sr. and Tony Sr. are cousins of former NFL players James and David Hill. The Hill brothers graduated from Highlands and both played at Texas A&I. James was a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in 1968, and David went to the Detroit Lions in the second round in 1976.