Jacob Green spent his 12-year career with the Seahawks collecting sacks at an alarming rate.
But how did the franchise’s all-time sack leader morph into a fundraiser extraordinaire who is now generating sacks full of cash for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, as well as Texas A&M, his alma mater?
Asked that very question Friday morning before the start of the 24th annual Jacob Green Charity Golf Classic at the Golf Course at Redmond Ridge, Green smiled before admitting he never planned on what has become his post-football career.
“I didn’t really set my mind to do this, it just progressed,” he said.
That progression has been at a rate even more alarming than the one that allowed Green to register a franchise-record 116 sacks for the Seahawks from 1980, when he was the team’s first-round draft choice, through 1991.
The dinner/auction portion of his golf tournament on Thursday night raised more than $300,000, and the dual event already had produced more than $2.6 million for the Fred Hutchinson Center in its first 23 years.
Green also offers his Puget Sound-renowned barbecue at the annual Grace Notes event for the Komen project, raising more than $420,000 the past five years for the fight against breast cancer.
In his job as a fundraiser at Texas A&M, Green has helped the Aggies raise $151 million in their capital campaign for athletic facilities.
“The fund-raising world, for me, is pretty easy,” Green said. “But that and the charity fundraising world are two different things. Today, I’m giving something to the Hutch. At A&M, I’m doing it to help our student athletes.
“It’s all kind of the same, but it’s not the same.”
Except when it comes to the results. That’s because Green’s presence has proven to be a difference-maker – just like when he was sacking quarterbacks for the Seahawks.
“Jacob has been a tremendous asset for us,” said Stu Starner, vice president of major gifts at Texas A&M. “He’s not only an icon at Texas A&M – an icon – but he also is a professional who has not rested on his laurels.
“He’s a worker. He’s focused. As a result, he has been very successful in our benchmark of raising money. So it’s not just a name, he’s a professional.”
Green returned to A&M as a professional fundraiser at the 12th Man Foundation in 2007.
“We were searching for an outstanding person who could successfully serve as an ambassador, but also as a professional fundraiser – which means you have to cultivate and ask for money,” Starner said. “Jacob is an exemplary ambassador, but he’s also a true professional.
“We’ve raised $151 million dollars, and Jacob has been a big part of that.”
Kevin Parker, event manager at Fred Hutchinson, joins the chorus of praise for Green’s efforts.
“Our relationship with Jacob has been everything we could have asked for, and so much more,” Parker said. “There are not a lot of people out there that stick with something for this long, and do as good a job as he’s doing.”
The Hutch is thanking Green by naming the third floor of the Thomas Building at the organization’s campus after him – The Jacob Green Foundation Research Floor. The naming ceremony will take place July 22.
“Because of his passion and what he has done, we are honoring Jacob and his foundation,” Parker said. “It’s incredible for him. He’s a big Teddy bear, so it means a lot to him.”
Christi Loso, media relations manager for Fred Hutchinson, added, “Jacob is a charismatic guy, that’s for sure, and so passionate about what he does.”
Heidi Rogers, special events manager for the Puget Sound Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, offered the bow that tied all this together by referring to Green as “a Komen rock star.”
Green’s interest in fundraising for cancer projects is rooted in the fact that his father died of the disease, and the friendship he developed with Pete Gross, the original radio voice of the Seahawks who died of cancer in 1992.
“When my father died, Pete was there for me,” Green said. “Then Pete died, so that’s how it got started. I never envisioned this would be how I’d spend the rest of my life, but it happened and it happened in a good way.”
Just ask Janet Green, who has been Jacob’s wife the past 30 years.
“Jacob has always been very social, so it is just part of him to be helping other people,” Janet said Friday, when she was among the “celebrities” who joined foursomes at the golf tournament. “All the things he’s doing with Texas A&M and the charity work he’s involved in, it just fits his personality.”
To call Green a people person doesn’t do him justice.
“He remembers people that he met 30 years ago,” Janet said.
Not just their names, but when he met them and why he met them.
“We were at College Station, and some person came up to Jacob and said, ‘Do you remember when you were a freshman and were getting off the plane,’ ” Janet said. “Jacob finished the story for the lady. I was like, ‘This is crazy.’
“But he just has the knack for it. And he loves what he’s doing, so it just comes natural.”
Like chasing down and taking down QBs. Green did that well enough to lead the Seahawks in sacks nine times – including 1983, when he had a career-best 16; and the four-season stretch from 1983-86 when he produced 54½. He was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 1995, selected to the Seattle Post Intelligencer’s 25th Anniversary team in 2000 and voted the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team last year.
From collecting sacks to producing sacks of cash, Green has made the transition effortlessly, not to mention productively – regardless of whether it’s for Texas A&M, Fred Hutchinson or Susan Komen.
“It’s rewarding, because they’re both for good causes,” he said. “It’s been fun.”