|Patriot Jarvis Green has tackled an important role off the field. (FILE/JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF)|
FOXBOROUGH - Jarvis Green has done an admirable job filling in for a missing Patriots defensive lineman this season. Sure, the sixth-year defensive end has more than sufficiently substituted for Richard Seymour, who missed the first seven games of the season following offseason knee surgery, but Green's most important role isn't rushing the passer. It's replacing a father.
A grieving Green has taken it upon himself to help raise Máshy Hill, the 2-year-old son of teammate and friend Marquise Hill, who drowned following a Jet Ski accident in New Orleans in May.
Green had known Hill since the 10th grade at De La Salle High School in New Orleans and played with him at Louisiana State.
They had never discussed any such arrangement, according to Albert Elias, Hill's and Green's agent.
"This wasn't prearranged. Jarvis just recognized that somebody needed to step in and help," said Elias. "Jarvis is always like that. He takes on other people's responsibilities."
Green has three children - Terrence, 9, Já Nya, 4, and Toi, 1 - with his wife, Rakia. He said he knows Hill would have done the same for him.
"Yeah, I know if something was to happen to me he would have been there for my kids," said Green, who was a pallbearer at Hill's funeral. "I don't know of anybody else as far as a teammate that was as close. We had our ups and downs and fusses, just like any other brothers or sisters would do. We had those, but we knew at the end of the day as far as somebody that could be accountable, we knew we had each other's backs no matter what."
After Hill's death, Green invited Máshy and his mother, Inell Benn, Hill's fiancee, to stay at his home.
"[Máshy] was pretty much hanging out with the kids," said Green. "I was taking them out and him being around my kids, sometimes he was calling me Dad. 'Dad, I want this. I wan t that.' "
Máshy is too young to fully grasp the effect of losing his father. Benn said he's still waiting for Hill to return. Every time he sees a black Cadillac Escalade, the car Hill drove, Máshy will sit mesmerized until he can see the driver. Hill's car had deeply tinted windows.
"He understands, but he's still looking for Marquise to walk in the door," said Benn, who moved to Austin, Texas, following Hill's death and is studying to be a nurse. "A lot of people here drive the same car as Marquise drove, and he'll say, 'That's my dad.' I'll say, 'No, he drove a car like that.' He doesn't really understand."
Although she has remained strong for her son, Hill's death has been tough on Benn, too. She attended the Patriots' victory over the Cowboys in Dallas Oct. 14 and after the game received hugs from many of the players. But when the team bus pulled away, she broke down.
"I was so used to waiting for Marquise," said Benn.
It's been tough on Green, who dons Hill's shoulder pads. Before every game, he rubs the No. 91 decal the Patriots put on their helmets this season to honor Hill.
"Every game before we go out of the tunnel, I always make sure I rub his number on my helmet, just remembering," said Green, his eyes reddening. "He's there. He's watching us. It's fine until you talk about it. Once you start talking about it, it's the memories."
Green and Benn want Máshy to have memories of Hill. Benn said just being around Green helps Máshy get a sense of who his father was.
"To tell you the truth, I think that Jarvis and Máshy have this bond because Marquise was this big guy and he was so playful with Máshy and he was strong and aggressive. Jarvis is the same kind of person," said Benn. "He has so many of the same characteristics. I feel like they have this bond. He cannot only tell him about his dad, he can do some of the same things with him that Marquise would have been doing."
Green has seen Máshy twice since the season started. It's tough with Benn being in Austin and Green's demanding schedule with the Patriots. Green is spending the bye week in Louisiana and Benn said she already got a call asking if she wanted to come and visit.
"Jarvis always calls me and he says, 'Hey, sis. What's up, sis?' " said Benn.
Regardless of schedules the rest of the season, Máshy is going to spend the summer with Green and his family. He'll also be baptized in the offseason with the Greens as his godparents.
"It's like starting over," said Green. "He feels like he's mine when he's around, and hopefully he's going to be around a lot more."
"Jarvis, he has really stepped up," said Benn, who used to baby-sit for the Greens. "I really do admire Jarvis for stepping up because Máshy, even though it's not Marquise, he's going to need people that knew him and to be surrounded by them."
Green has a reputation for coming up big when his teammates need him. In the 2003 AFC Championship game, with Seymour hurt, Green had a career-high 2 1/2 sacks, as New England downed the Indianapolis Colts, 24-14. Last Sunday, Green sealed the Patriots' 24-20 victory over the Colts - and possibly secured home field in the playoffs - by punching the ball loose from Peyton Manning on Indianapolis's last possession.
Now, he's doing it for Hill by being a paternal presence for Máshy.
"Football is temporary as far as what we do," said Green. "We got a long life to live, and it's my duty to be the father figure for him."
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at email@example.com.