I met Nate Green at a basketball game.
He spotted me from across the gym. We’d never formally met but both kind of knew each other. That is, I knew he coached at Oceanside — it was hard to pinpoint what his exact role was, as he seemed to be involved in everything — and he knew I worked in the media. The camera probably gave it away.
I could see him coming. He traced a path from the far corner of the gym. He was taking tickets that night or working security or something. He maneuvered around the court, through the crowds and down to the edge of the bleachers where I was seated waiting for the second game of the night to start.
“Jamie?” he led with his hand extended.
I was confused. So was he, clearly. But the embrace was so welcoming that I hardly had the heart to correct him. I eventually did. He put on a sheepish smile and began debating to himself whether someone gave him the wrong name or he misheard them.
Either way, he was generous. He offered me a bottle of water. He offered the use of a school office. It had a computer and WiFi and the chairs were much more comfortable than these plastic bleachers, he said. He thanked me for being there.
The athletic director of the opposing school sat behind me. He admitted he was impressed once Green left and, only half jokingly, confessed that his school was lacking someone like Green. Truth is, there weren’t many like Green.
“He’s valuable,” I remember the athletic director saying. He had no idea how valuable.
Green moved here from Michigan a few years ago to coach at Oceanside. He led the defensive backs on the varsity football staff but also gladly handled coaching certifications, inventory, concessions, website management and an endless list of other things. He refused to slow down. He was handing out yearbooks and cap and gowns to Oceanside seniors just two weeks ago.
Green died early Monday morning. He valiantly battled mantle cell lymphoma for the past two years. It seemed as if he had beaten it once. It returned this fall. He’s finally at peace. Green was 49 years old.
An outpouring of love and support flowed through social media as the news spread. My words pale in comparison to those of his peers, those who coached and worked alongside him every day. Below are a few shared testimonies.
Nathaniel Allen Green
November 16, 1970 – May 11, 2020
"My friend and my colleague, Coach Nate Green was a great friend, awesome coach, hard worker, super organized, terrific father, and all-around good dude. He never gave up. He was fighting this thing until the last, but I’m relieved for him that he doesn’t need to fight anymore."
Mark Meyer, Oceanside athletic director
"His legacy will live on through all of us whom he impacted with love, kindness, courage and toughness.
"Nate brought out the best in people. I’m a better man for my friendship with him."
Chad Grier, Oceanside head football coach 2017-20
"Nate you will forever live on through not only me but to everyone you’ve come in contact with. It was an honor to coach next to you for the time we had. I love you brother and I know the lord whispered these sweet words in your ears as he called you home. He said 'Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord!'"
Curt Williams, Oceanside assistant football coach 2018-20
"You showed everyone how to be a man, how to love and fight! I’m forever thankful for our bus-ride conversions and keeping me in check when I needed it."
Jamaal Birch, Oceanside assistant football coach 2018-20
"I remember the first time I meet Nate Green, I was like 'Who is this fly clean dressing dude?' LOL. We connected from Day 1. He taught me so much about life as a man. He was a servant leader in so many ways, will give the t-shirt off his back for anyone. The most organized and detailed person I have ever met. He was so sharp it was crazy.
I was so amazed with him because of his heart, the gifts and talents that he had."
Rashad Jackson, Oceanside defensive coordinator 2017-20
"You gave it your all but you’re now in a better place. I just wish I could’ve been there to say my goodbyes. Thank you for everything, from inviting us to come out to Dog & Duck after games, to helping me and Chase set up the field, to having us laughing in the coaches meeting room. Your name will forever live on!"
Devin Brown, Oceanside assistant 2018-20
"In a life of humble and faithful service, Coach Nate changed the lives of countless people for good. You left us better."
Wylie McCall, Oceanside assistant volleyball coach
"This man poured his heart out for the people he cared about and always put others first. The definition of a servant leader."
Joel Osteen, Oceanside 2020 graduate
"He’s the toughest Shark in the Tank."