Call it "Greenway Acres." As far as the Vikings are concerned, it's the place to be.
The journey to the NFL for Chad Greenway has been an improbable ride. He grew up in the small town of Mount Vernon, S.D. (population 450, give or take a few). His school was so small that he never played 11-man football until he arrived at the University of Iowa – having played nine-man football all through his high school years.
He was such an unknown, in fact, that he was only recruited by two schools – Iowa and Division II South Dakota. Growing up on a farm in which he helped his family tend to more than 4,000 pigs and 150 stock cows, to go from that the NFL is the type of story that the Disney Studio would want to get its hands on.
"You could say I've come a long way," Greenway said. "We didn't think anything of it (playing nine-man football). The transition to Iowa was a big step because I had never played the 11-man game before. Obviously, this next step to the NFL is going to be an even greater step. I'm looking forward to the challenge and I'm excited about it."
A lifelong fan of football, because he lived in South Dakota, he was in the part of the country that was deemed by the television networks as Vikings Country, which meant he grew up watching the Vikings on a weekly basis.
"I was always a big Vikings fan growing up," Greenway said, admitting he was also a fan of the 49ers. "Because it was close to home, I was able to watch all their games. It was like a dream come true – what a great fit."
Greenway's NFL dream nearly got derailed in February at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, by, of all things, a pair of shoes. Nervous, but ready to prove himself to the scouts and team representatives in attendance, Greenway wore a pair of track shoes and the results were awful – a time of 4.77 seconds in the 40-yard dash and a vertical jump of 33 inches.
"When we brought him in, we asked him if there was anything he could change from his collegiate experience, what would it be?" Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel Fran Foley said. "His answer was to wear different shoes at the Combine."
Less than a month later at his Pro Day at Iowa, he returned to wearing football cleats and the results were immediate and impressive – a 4.51 time in the 40 and a 38-inch vertical jump. After having some scouts wondering, he earned back the faith of teams like the Vikings.
Greenway's next challenge will be the greatest of his career – to step into a Vikings defense that is making the switch to the Tampa-2 defense – a scheme that calls for instinctive and reactive linebackers. Unlike his jump from high school to college, this transition will come with a little prior experience on his resume.
"It fits me pretty well," Greenway said of the Tampa-2 system. "I think I have the speed to play it. I've played a little of it in college and I think that is where (the Vikings) saw the fit. They've seen me on film doing it. I think it would be a great fit and has an exciting upside for linebackers that can make plays."
The Vikings are excited about the prospect of adding their second South Dakota native to the roster – the team signed fellow South Dakotan Ben Leber as their first free agent signing of the off-season. But Greenway is just as excited. While some players may be content just to get drafted into the NFL and get to the money that comes with being a first-round choice, Greenway is looking as his draft selection simply as the first step on another adventure – one he plans to make the most of and not taking lightly.
"I respect the game by playing absolutely as hard as I can on every snap," Greenway said. "I'm giving my best effort – putting the effort in the film room and getting myself prepared so I know I'm going to be there for my teammates on Sunday. I need to come in here and earn the respect of my teammates first and foremost and let them know I belong here."
It's been a long ride from farm livin' to the NFL, but the Vikings are glad Greenway's Acres has found its way to Minnesota.
Greenway Eager to Prove Himself
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