Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green said Tuesday he didn't think it was a big deal when he sold his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000 to Chris Hawkins, the former North Carolina football player who owns Elevated Performance Management, LLC.
Hawkins has denied any wrongdoing. But Green acknowledged it was indeed Hawkins who befriended him on Facebook and secured the transaction for the jersey, which the Bulldog junior said he sold for money he needed for spring break.
"It (selling the jersey) was a long time ago so I didn't think nothing of it. But when that came up they (NCAA) asked me, I told them and just moved on," said Green, who added the NCAA approached him about the jersey the week before the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"That came up a week before the game. I didn't think nothing of it when I sold the jersey. I thought everything was going to be OK, but it did and they asked how I got the money and I told them," Green said. "I broke the rule but I've paid my price and I'm ready to play again."
As for Hawkins, Green said the two have never actually spoken to one another.
"I've never talked to him to this day," Green said.
According to Green, the NCAA began looking into his bank records as a result of their original inquiry back in July into whether he took part in an agent-sponsored trip to Miami for a party during the Memorial Day weekend.
Green said it was his understanding that the Miami inquiry came about because of a report by the television tabloid show TMZ.
"They said it was a rumor they had heard (from TMZ)," Green said of the NCAA.
Once the NCAA learned that Green was not involved, the organization asked for his bank records dating back to Feb. 2009.
It was there that investigators discovered the $1,000 deposit and asked Green where the money had come from.
"They had all my bank statements going all the way back to Feb. 2009," Green said. "They looked and saw that, asked where I got the money from and I told them. I didn't lie to them to jeopardize my whole season."
Green confirmed it was Georgia's decision to not play him for the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"They (Georgia coaches) didn't hold me out, we were waiting on the decision (from the NCAA), but eventually we just decided to play it safe," Green said. "It was lucky we did because we might have had to forfeit a couple of games."
Green said it was an ordeal he will never forget.
"Oh man, it's been painful but everybody makes mistakes in life and this taught me a valuable lesson. It gave me time to reflect and see who was really for me personally and to see who was going to stay in my corner through thick and thin. I really found out that and it made me a stronger person. I'm just moving on now," he said. "I've never been a guy who has ever gotten in any trouble while I've been here. Sometimes I couldn't sleep thinking about things like that. It was a painful process. I'm just glad that it's over."
Green said he's been kicking himself ever since.
During his approximate 10-minute interview with reporters, Green said he understood the pain he caused, not only to fans but each and every member of the Bulldog Nation.
"I feel like I caused a lot of people pain, because if I was out there a couple of times, maybe we would have had a chance of coming out (some more wins)," Green said. "It's taught me a valuable lesson. I'm growing up; I know I've got to do the right thing because I'm under the spotlight. I know now how much people are looking at me now."
He hopes to start making amends come Saturday night's game at Colorado.
"Oh man, I'm going to get loose out there," he said. "I've worked so hard and had to miss four games. This off-season was one of my best off-seasons because I felt like I got better, stronger and faster. Now it's time to show people what I've got and I've still got stuff to prove. I missed four games and I'm behind. I'm going to have a lot of catching up to do."
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