STORRS — Senior Steve Greene, playing in his final game Saturday, didn't see the tracks for the roller coaster ride he was about to embark on when he arrived at UConn in 2009.
The 6-foot-5, 308-pound guard from Edensburg, Pa., redshirted that year but was named the offensive scout team player of the week leading up to UConn's improbable 33-30 overtime win at Notre Dame, one of the greatest in school history no matter how bad the Irish were.
The ride has been on a downward slope since. Randy Edsall was the coach when Greene committed but Edsall abruptly left. Paul Pasqualoni came in and the Huskies switched to an NFL-type system that just didn't work and for two seasons, the Huskies have been unable to maintain the consistent ground game that had been a signature feature of the program.
Unfairly, perhaps, much of the blame for the offense's struggles in a 12-23 run since the Fiesta Bowl have been placed on the offensive line, but that's how it goes. Offensive linemen get that.
"It's been a long ride, a season full of highs and lows, ups and downs, really a whole career of it, going to a BCS bowl, back-to-back losing seasons, an 0-9 start this year and now trying to end on a high note and hopefully on a three-game winning streak … it's been an emotional rollercoaster," Greene said.
And Greene, one of four captains and 14 seniors who will be recognized Saturday when the Huskies (2-9, 2-5 American) close out the season hosting Memphis (3-8, 1-6) in a 1 p.m. game at Rentschler Field, probably wouldn't trade the experience or friendships and that Big East championship for anything.
There are, however, going to be times when he looks back and asks, "What happened from the time he arrived until now?"
"I wish I knew what really happened," said Greene, who became a full-time starter in 2012 but started eight games in 2011, the last time the Huskies had a 1,000-yard rusher. "I think it was a lot of things that really played into it."
These last few days are about finishing strong. The Huskies haven't won three straight since 2010 so that would be an accomplishment. Getting through the last few days won't be easy. The roller coaster ride stops Saturday.
On Tuesday, a red-faced Greene said he was already emotional talking about his UConn experience.
"Yep, a little bit," Greene said, with his voice cracking. "It's tough. I wanted to leave a legacy. UConn was a program that was on the up and up, a relatively new D-I school when I got here that really showed great leaps and bounds going forward and I wanted to be a part of the team, part of the class that really took it to the next level. I was able to be here for a Big East championship, that's a goal accomplished. I obviously didn't want it to end this way but I have no complaints.
The football has been tough but Greene's college experience has been anything but. He'll walk with two degrees, one in sports management, the other in political science. He said he wishes he had experienced college life more but that's something he'll be sure to talk to younger players about before he leaves, maybe even Saturday.
"You should take the time to actually enjoy it," Greene said. "Don't get caught up in stuff you shouldn't, really, just enjoy the college experience. It's supposed to be the time of your life. That's what everyone says. Take time to build relationships you think are worth building. Don't let the time here, experience, run past you. I didn't experience it as well as I would have liked. I made football my main focus but I enjoyed it. It's what I wanted to do."
Jimmy Bennett, the senior left tackle who plays next to Greene and rooms with him, said the program is going to miss his friend.
"He is a great leader," Bennett said. "He's not the most vocal guy. He did it by example. Whether some of the younger guys want to admit it or not he's been a big help to them and a good leader."
Greene's leadership qualities will be on display one final time.
"I think I'm going to approach Saturday as all business," Greene said. "It's all about getting that win, you know that. But the locker room after the game … it's probably going to be a pretty emotional time. Last time being out there, suiting up in UConn gear; I've been a part of it for five seasons now. For this to be the last time, it's meaningful and emotional, but Saturday is about getting that last win."