Dream no longer remote
Greenway on verge of NFL
In Chad Greenways time at Iowa, the only school to offer him a Division 1 scholarship, he was a three-time All-Big Ten selection. (AP Photo)
Like millions of youngsters in the United States, Chad Greenway dreamed of someday playing in the NFL.
Then he would wake up, and get to work tending to his family's 4,000 pigs, or mending fences on the 1,500-acre spread where they farmed corn and beans. Oh, during football season, of course, he'd throw on the pads and play.
It was nine-man football in a state that could claim but two players in the NFL last season (the Patriots' Adam Vinatieri and the Chargers' Ben Leber), but the odds against him did not curb his enthusiasm or limit his dream.
''Kids from South Dakota are the same as kids everywhere," said Greenway, who hails from Mount Vernon (population 470 in 2004). ''We also dream of playing professional sports, especially professional football, and growing up in a very athletic family, that was something I always dreamt about and idolized the people in this situation that I'm in right now."
That situation? He is listed among the top linebackers available in the NFL draft and should be a first- or second-round selection Saturday.
Pretty good for a former 210-pound quarterback/safety who had to send out game tapes to get the attention of the Iowa coaching staff, the only ones to offer him a Division 1 scholarship.
The first time Greenway suited up with the Hawkeyes at practice was the first time he had been on a football field with 22 players. By the last time he suited up for them, he was finishing up a career in which he earned second-team All-America honors and was named All-Big Ten three times.
At Iowa, Greenway played for Kirk Ferentz, who was an assistant coach under Bill Belichick in Cleveland in the 1990s.
The Hawkeyes ran a 4-3 defense, in which Greenway played weak side. He says at 242 pounds he has the versatility to play any linebacker position, and though he did little blitzing at Iowa, he projects himself to be an outside backer in a 3-4. He has patterned his game after the Bears' Brian Urlacher.
In a workout for NFL teams, Greenway ran the 40-yard dash in only 4.76 seconds, and he was disappointed in his 16 reps of bench presses at the combine. But he says he has run the 40 in sub-4.5 seconds, as his coverage skills seem to indicate, and he plays stronger than the weightlifting test indicates.
At season's end, he was a sure first-rounder, though recent draft scuttlebutt has him perhaps going lower. But his game is probably too solid for him to fall that far. The Minnesota Vikings, at No. 17, are said to be interested, and he would fit with the Patriots. Whatever happens, he should realize his dream soon.
Greenway is one of a large group of quality linebackers, perhaps the deepest position in the draft. Fast, instinctive, and an explosive hitter, Ohio State's A.J. Hawk is a near-unanimous choice as the best of the bunch, and will certainly be a top 10 pick.
Widely recognized as the top defender in the country last season, Hawk led the Buckeyes in tackles for three straight years and was a two-time first-team All-America.
''This guy's a playmaker, he runs all over the place, and he runs to the ball," said Browns coach Romeo Crennel, whose team has no shot at Hawk with the 12th pick. ''He's got some size, some speed, some production. I like all of those things."
Florida State's Ernie Sims has shot up the charts because of his fearless play and 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
''When I get on that field, my intentions are to just go out there and try to punish people," Sims said. ''Not in a bad way, but that's how I play football."
At only 231 pounds, Sims hasn't drawn as much interest from the growing number of teams that run the 3-4 defense. That is also the case for Maryland's D'Qwell Jackson, who is a perfect fit for Cover 2 defenses, though he could add some bulk to a 6-0, 230-pound frame.
DeMeco Ryans of Alabama is probably the smartest draft-eligible linebacker, his playmaking skills bolstered by Academic All-America status.
Ohio State's Bobby Carpenter is considered a perfect fit for the 3-4, and he should have the early on-field edge on players such as Kamerion Wimbley (Florida State) and Manny Lawson (North Carolina State), who spent most of their time at defensive end in college but expect to switch to outside linebacker if drafted by 3-4 teams. All are likely first-rounders.
With the losses of Willie McGinest, Chad Brown, and Matt Chatham, the Patriots have depth issues at linebacker and will probably look to claim two linebackers in the draft. Carpenter is considered to be atop the team's wish list.
Thomas Howard of Texas-El Paso is a solid pass rusher with speed, and Tim Dobbins of Iowa State is an inside battering ram thought to have a huge upside. They project to be selected in the second or third round.