By: Will Burchfield
Tion Green loves his momma.
“My momma, she’s freaking awesome,” Green said with a big smile on Monday.
It was hard to disagree. Leticia Strickland called her son’s NFL debut — to a darn T — well before he had any idea it was in the cards.
“My mom is weird. Maybe four weeks ago, she said, ‘Come Baltimore, you’re going to play in your first game, you’re going to make a touchdown and I’m going to be there.’ I’m like, ‘Mom, you’re talking crazy. What are you talking about? I don’t know when I’m going to be up,” said Green, an undrafted rookie from Cincinnati.
Sure enough, the Baltimore game rolled around on Sunday and Green was active for the first time this year. And he scored a touchdown. And his mom was there.
It gets better.
Strickland never told Green she was making the trip from her hometown of Sanford, Fla. to Baltimore. He didn’t find out she was in town until he got a knock on his door at the Lions’ hotel on Saturday night. It was one of the team’s security guards.
“He goes, ‘There’s a lady downstairs saying she’s your mom,'” Green said. “I’m like, ‘What?'”
Green had talked to his mom that morning, as he does every day: “Good morning, mom, love you. Have a great day.” She said nothing about flying up.
“It just went over my head,” he said. “I’m like, ain’t no way my momma gonna be there.”
Nevertheless, Green went downstairs with the security guard to find his mom sitting outside in a rental car. Somehow she had hunted down the team hotel.
“I just see her in the car smiling, she’s got gold teeth,” said Green. “And the people are like, ‘Is this lady your mom?’ My momma’s like, ‘That’s my son.’ I’m like, ‘Mom, what’s up!’ Who’d you come with, where you staying? Can I help you?’ She’s like, ‘I’m grown. You ain’t my daddy.’
“My momma funny.”
It gets better.
Strickland bought her own ticket to Baltimore and her own ticket to the game. She had told her son she was going to be there for his NFL debut, and was determined to keep her word.
“I’m like, ‘Why didn’t you tell me? I would’ve got you a ticket!'” Green laughed. “She’s like, ‘Boy, I don’t want nothing from you. If I say I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna do it.'”
Then Strickland told Green to get in the car. She was taking him to dinner. They decided on P.F. Chang’s. While eating, she doubled down on her prediction, even though Green was still unsure if he was going to be in the lineup.
“I’m like, ‘Mom, this is crazy, it’s so ironic. I might be playing tomorrow.’ And she’s just like, ‘You’re going to score, too,'” Green said.
That he did, finding the end zone from six yards out in the third quarter. He finished the afternoon with 51 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Perhaps his quickest dash came afterward, when he raced out of the Lions’ locker room to find his biggest fan.
“I went up to her, I’m like, ‘How’d you know?'” Green said.
“I swear she’s got ties with somebody,” said Green.
Green’s only regret is that he didn’t convert a goal-line carry in the fourth quarter into his second touchdown of the game. His mom was seated in the section above the end zone, and Green wanted to hand her the ball.
Fortunately, he has the ball from his first, thanks mostly to Golden Tate. Green had originally handed it over to the ref, as he was taught to do in college, before Tate took it back.
“He was like, ‘You need to keep that ball, that’s your first NFL touchdown,'” said Green.
There’s only one person he’d give it to.
“Yeah, I’ll give my momma the first ball,” Green said.
“She was the happiest woman in the world,” he added. “That was my happy moment then, because my whole life my mom always told me, ‘My biggest dream is I just want you to make it and I just want to come to a game.'”
Doesn’t get better than that.