Backyard basketball games at the Green household used to get pretty heated.
Nyah Green had the skill set to outmaneuver her younger brother, and Taylen Green didn’t want to have any of that.
Every now and then, their father, Quinton Green, had to step in to play referee.
“I feel like that’s what first got me into loving to compete,” Taylen said. “Those times of just wanting to beat my sister so bad because she was the oldest. I didn’t want to hear my sister talk down to me.”
Competition looks a little different for Taylen these days. Instead of those sweaty Texas nights of backyard ball, he’s trotting out on football fields as the Boise State football team’s starting quarterback.
And he still is not about to let anyone talk down to him.
Taylen Green is heading into his redshirt sophomore season with lofty expectations after breaking out as the Broncos’ starter in 2022. He and Boise State open the 2023 season Saturday against No. 10 Washington (1:30 p.m., ABC) at Husky Stadium in Seattle.
It’s all part of a seismic shift in athletic notoriety for the Green family, which now gathers around the TV on Saturdays to watch Taylen rather than Nyah, who played college basketball in the ACC.
“He was kind of in the shadow of me growing up,” said Nyah, who is two years older and was a McDonald’s All-American in high school. “I’m just so proud and so happy for him that the spotlight is on him now. He’s handling it with grace and he’s doing everything he’s supposed to be doing.”
A BASKETBALL FAMILY
Quinton played basketball at Collin College in McKinney, Texas, so both Nyah and Taylen were introduced to the sport at a young age.
Taylen said he enjoyed basketball, but never had the same love for it as his sister.
“Everyone was telling me, ‘Oh, Nyah’s pretty good,” Quinton said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. She’s four.’ But as things went on, after another couple years when she was about six, then I started really seeing her true potential. She just had a drive to be the best.”
By the time Nyah was in sixth grade, she received her first college scholarship offer — from the University of Texas.
“We went on a lot of family unofficial visits, and Taylen would go,” Quinton said. “He would be bored out of his mind.”
Taylen estimated that he attended “95 percent” of his sister’s games growing up. He got used to hearing how good she was.
“I’m seeing it every day and we’re battling,” Taylen said. “I’m like, ‘If she’s great, then I’m gonna beat her.’ So that was definitely motivation for me.”
Nyah verbally committed to Louisville her freshman year and was ranked No. 7 overall and the third-best guard nationally in her class by Prospects Nation. A 2019 McDonald’s All-American, she spent a year and a half at Louisville before transferring to Duke. She medically retired after her redshirt sophomore year.
“He learned from my mistakes,” Nyah said. “Basically, I always tell him to keep his head down and keep grinding ... and continue to have faith in Jesus. He’s done that, and it’s amazing just to see how it’s all coming about right now.”
FOOTBALL OVER BASKETBALL
Taylen gave up basketball in the eighth grade to pour his heart into the sport that has paid off for him.
“So when I told my dad, he tells me all the time he was hurt because he played basketball and my sister played basketball,” Taylen said. “... My sister was the one that just worked hard at basketball like 24/7. She would ask my dad to go to the gym. They’d be in the gym — blood, sweat and tears into that — and I’d do the same, but I was like, not really loving it.”
But football made Taylen’s heart pump.
He got serious about the sport in the ninth grade, he said, drawn in by the overall challenge of being a quarterback. Taylen was a natural athlete, but he knew he had a lot to learn about the position.
“All the running, jumping and that stuff, that came natural to me always,” Taylen said. “But the mental game and just how to go about things being a quarterback really didn’t come natural. That’s what really intrigued me, and I saw it as a challenge that was fun.”
Taylen also had to pack on the pounds. As a high school freshman, he was 6-foot-3 — and weighed only 150 pounds.
“I was skinny — like, skinny-skinny,” he said.
But as Taylen grew into his body — he’s now 6-6 and 223 pounds — his game grew as well.
He posted more than 2,431 passing yards and 29 total touchdowns during his senior season at Lewisville High in Texas. He scored 66 touchdowns in two seasons with the Fighting Farmers.
But Taylen’s recruitment was much different than his sister’s. He had to choose a school during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, sight unseen.
“With the COVID situation, we couldn’t even take official visits or anything like that,” Taylen said. “Just talking to Nyah, and she’s like, ‘It’s OK to step away from your comfort zone. It’s OK to get away from home.’ I’m definitely glad I listened to her with that, because I’ve grown so much since I’ve been here.
“My mom and dad and my family’s not here, but, I mean, I know they’re a phone call away.”
FAMILY ABOVE ALL
Taylen was named the Frisco Bowl’s Offensive MVP after the Broncos defeated North Texas 35-32 last December.
It was his first college game in his home state. While his teammates were posting photos on social media with the Frisco Bowl trophy, Taylen was caught up in the moment with his family and friends.
“I was just so happy to be with my family,” Taylen said. “I was just talking with my family the whole time and I didn’t get a picture with the trophy. I was like, ‘That’s OK.’ Because I was just enjoying that time and celebrating with my family. They’re the reason why I’m here. They’re the reason why I am at Boise State.”
Since he took over as the Broncos’ starting quarterback five games into last season — they were 2-2 at the time and went on to win seven of their next eight games — Taylen has leaned on family to keep the spotlight from getting overwhelming.
Nobody knows that feeling better than Nyah.
“Just talking to my sister, it goes back to just trying to control what I can control,” Taylen said. “I can control my mindset. I can control my attitude. I can control my work ethic, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Even his younger sister, Keira, has offered advice.
“In my family, each person has their own thing. My dad is definitely the chill person,” Taylen said. “My mom is definitely always wondering how I’m doing and always checking in and all that. My younger sister is the funny, goofy one. I learn from her a lot. ... It’s football, but it’s just a sport, and she reminds me that it’s OK to smile. It’s OK to have fun.”
‘TAKING THINGS AS THEY COME’
As the starting quarterback at Boise State, Taylen’s face is a familiar one to many around the city.
He’s signed his fair share of name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals, including one that netted him a Ford F150 pickup truck. He’s on watch lists this season for the Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award.
“He hasn’t changed who he is at all,” Quinton said. “He’s always been kind of laid back, taking things as they come. He don’t take anything too serious, and honestly I think it’s because of what his sister went through. He saw how the spotlight affected her — in good and bad ways. He was never in the spotlight, so he’s not looking for fame. He’s fully focused on his goals.
“He definitely has a lot better perspective on life than I ever did at that age. None of this stuff is getting to him at all. He’s just truly focused on school and football.”
The spotlight will be bright this season on Taylen, who passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for nearly 600 in 2022, while accounting for 24 touchdowns. His penchant for breaking long runs gained him notoriety, and all eyes will be on him Saturday when the Broncos open the season against a top 10 team on the road.
While fans wonder how the team will look offensively under new coordinator Bush Hamdan, the Green family knows exactly what to expect of Taylen.
“I mean, it could have been just playing cards or playing any type of game that we had, Taylen was always the most competitive,” Quinton said. “Nyah was competitive, too, but he couldn’t stand losing.”