Green, already carrying the weight of having to prove himself after transferring from a junior college, bears the extra burden of being a black quarterback in an era when almost all signal callers at the college and professional level are white. Chapter 21 of "The Leather Man" tells readers that Green has established himself as the Wranglers' starter and is just beginning to feel comfortable as the team leader when Jerry Wilson, his position coach, and Wranglers defensive coordinator Ben Steinbrecher show up at his room to ask if the accusation is true.
The first thing that came to Green was Gram's face, solemn and proud, as she recited her instructions for behavior the night he caught the bus for Canyon City. The second thing was the injustice of it. In an era when Timothy Leary was a household name and even non-dropouts were turning on and tuning in, a young man had stood by his grandmother's advice: Leave that to the honkies.
Wilson can see the season falling apart before it starts. He took the detail under protest in the first place, pointing out to head coach Buck McKinnon that the call smacked of a prank and was almost certainly bogus. But McKinnon, whose previous team had a 3-7 record, feels his own career is in jeopardy and wants to squelch any potential drug scandal even if it means losing the most promising quarterback he's ever had in camp. Luckily for Wilson, Steinbrecher volunteered to accompany him on the unwelcome assignment. Steinbrecher has no doubt that Green has been falsely accused, but he is more relaxed than they are. What no one but Steinbrecher knows is that he has an ace to play.
That feeling of security allows Steinbrecher to admire "the accoutrements of soul" in Green's room, starting with an elephant-hide shield imported from Africa, a Lava Lamp and photos of Green's two-sport heroics in high school. He joins the conversation when Green asks if the two plan to search his room for drug paraphernalia, saying:
"There was a phone call, and we had to take it seriously because a serious allegation was made. As the starting quarterback, you are the face of the program. Be content with that. We know you're not a quitter, because the lady who raised you said so."
The reference to Gram takes the steam out of Green's dudgeon.
He asks how Steinbrecher could have any idea who raised him, and the defensive coordinator explains that he went to visit Gram in Phoenix at McKinnon's request to assure her that her grandson would be treated well in Idaho. Still incredulous, Green asks for verification, and Steinbrecher tells him about the red bird of paradise tree in Gram's backyard. Since Green's boyhood, Gram has used it to teach him the need for parental- and self-discipline by citing the constant attention and training it takes to coax a bush into a tree with a single trunk. It is a detail no one who isn't on good terms with Gram could know, and it's just enough to guarantee that the Wranglers will keep their stylish backfield intact.