Before he could even walk, Emmanuel Greene knew he wanted to be a football player.
Some players pick up the sport at an early age, playing in youth leagues at the elementary school level. Others have football as one of several activities, often choosing to focus on the gridiron while in middle school or at the onset of high school.
Greene? His love affair with the game dates back to his days as a toddler growing up in South Florida.
"My first word was ball," Greene said. "I had an older brother that played football so I was at every Saturday game and all practices. From day one I knew I wanted to play football, as long as I can remember. For Christmas, all I used to get was a football and a pair of gloves."
Fast forward a decade and a 15-year-old Greene started grabbing national attention after a standout freshman year at Coconut Creek, earning early offers from the likes of Clemson, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio State and others. A video from a 7-on-7 camp the following summer added to the buzz after it went viral with more than a million views.
His journey eventually took him to Bradenton's IMG Academy and now UCF, where he enrolled this past January as one of the Knights' top signees of the 2017 recruiting class. Just like on the football field, being on the academic fast track was always the goal.
"It's all about being ahead of the game," Greene said. "Preparing yourself for the best situation possible. Academically in high school, I tried to get that together so I'm able to be put in the position where I'm at today... It's been great (here at UCF) adjusting and adapting academically, physically and mentally. When fall camp comes around, I'm going to be a semester ahead."
Greene credits IMG for helping to make a smooth transition to college life. The biggest adjustment?
"The weight room," Greene said. Just the intensity of it. How much weights we lift and all that. The intensity. IMG, they help you physically get your body ready, but it's not exactly what college is going to be like. That was the biggest. Your daily schedule is also expanded a little more."
To that end, UCF's strength staff is looking to bulk up his 5-foot-10, 171-pound frame a bit more in time for the upcoming season.
"I'm trying to gain 10 pounds so I can physically go out there, take hits, give hits," Greene said. "That's the goal. Add 10 pounds on to what I'm weighing now."
While the depth chart will remain fluid until the end of the preseason, Greene seems like a player poised to make an immediate impact. Head coach Scott Frost, offensive coordinator Troy Walters and several players have noted his quick development. During Wednesday's 30-minute media observation of practice, Greene was spotted taking several first team reps with the offense.
"I'm here to work for a starting spot," Greene said. "I'm going to bust my butt, do anything I've got to do to get that spot... Spring has had its ups and downs. I'm learning. But I'm just glad to be out there. When fall comes around, I should be sharp as a pencil."
Even though he's a new player, Greene says he can easily see the improvement the offense has made since last season. Their performance in Wednesday's scrimmage drew praise from Frost, who called it their "best day" of the spring.
"Offensively, just from being a recruit and a fan last year, and now that I'm here, I really feel like we're doing better," Greene said. "Overall at every position, we've gotten a lot better this spring. We're coming together. Things are starting to click. There are ups and downs, but there's more ups than downs."
Greene, known by "Manny" to his coaches and teammates, can't wait for the season to arrive.
"I'm more than excited," he said. "We've got some great plans for this year. I truly believe with all my heart that we can accomplish all of them. We definitely have the ability to go out there and compete at the highest level inside this conference. I'm just excited for the year."