Chad Greenway grew up playing nine-man football in the small, rural community of Mount Vernon, South Dakota.Then, he went on to play at Iowa, and later became a first-round draft pick for the Minnesota Vikings. Greenway, a 6’2″, 242 pound linebacker, is now 30-years old and is entering his eighth season in the NFL.
For the Vikings, Greenway has recorded 540 tackles, 11.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, 11 fumbles recovered, six interceptions and one touchdown over the last seven years.
While Greenway is a playmaker on the Vikings defense, his off the field contributions to the community catch the eye of his fans, too. Greenway began his Lead A Way Foundation in 2006 to enrich the lives of individuals and families in need.
In an interview at Vikings Training Camp in Mankato, Minnesota, Greenway shared why he loves playing football in the NFL, and why he loves giving back to his fans, families, kids, and home state.
What do you love about playing in the NFL?
“The biggest thing is, it’s a dream come true. I mean to be able to play in the NFL is something that I’ve always wanted to do, a dream that I had set in my mind when I was a young kid. I think even then I knew it was just a dream, but in the back of my mind, I knew I had a chance if I gave it everything I had. If anything I just want to be an example to kids that grow up in small rural communities that you can realize your dreams and things you think in your mind are all possible if you put the work in.”
How blessed are you that you’ve been able to play in the NFL for seven years?
“This league is very tough. It’s a business driven league. The longevity in this league is hard to obtain. Being able to go into my eighth season with the same organization is a blessing. I’ve given up a lot of sacrifices, a lot of things to be here, so it’s a blessing for our family to be in this organization for eight years. My goal now just becomes, can I finish a Viking and that’s where my loyalty lies.”
How many years do you have left?
“Three years left on this contract, but I want to continue to play as long as my body feels well and as long as I can produce. So, as long as it will let me probably.”
Hows your knee feeling?
“It feels good. Six or seven weeks after surgery and I haven’t had to miss too much of practice. Things have been feeling really good.”
How’s training camp been going for you?
“Training camp has been going really well. I think, obviously, it’s still early, but almost a week in now and I think everyone is getting a feel of how things are going to go and the team we have. I think the skies the limit for our young team.”
What’s your relationships with your teammates like?
“I think this team more than any I’ve been on is young, so I have to take a little bit more of a leadership role with this team, but at same time, it’s a fun team because they are so young. There’s a ton of spirit out there, everyone is getting after it and its fun group to be around.”
What’s the outlook on the season for 2013?
“We want to get back and be 10-6 again, get a chance to be in the playoffs and then when you get in the playoffs, it’s obviously anyone’s ball game. So our goal is to win the Super Bowl, but we know there is a lot of work that comes with that, so we are starting to work now.”
As much as Greenway enjoys playing football in the NFL for the Vikings, he says that South Dakota is his roots, and he loves to come back.
How important are your SD ties?
“Very important. Obviously, my childhood, everything I learned up to the year of 18 was in South Dakota and I certainly cherish my time growing up there and love going back to the farm. I certainly go back to Mount Vernon as often as I can. Growing up in South Dakota is a special honor and I love the state very much.”
What keeps you coming back to South Dakota every offseason?
“My family farm is still back there in Mount Vernon. I go see my parents, my sisters, my nieces and nephews, and to see the rest of my family. I just love to come back, pheasant hunting back there in the fall when I get an opportunity, and spring for different events. I love to come home to see family and friends and get back to Sioux Falls, where a lot of friends live as well. I try to come back as often as I can.”
Greenway developed his Lead A Way foundation in 2006, and he shares how he loves to give back, and why it’s important to do so.
What does your Lead A Way Foundation do?
“Our foundation, the Lead A Way foundation was created in 2006 with the idea to give back to as many kids that were going through different types of cancer. Its really blossomed into really helping the whole family dynamic and trying to just help different things, kids, the siblings, the parents. We also do camps where we can help youth get an opportunity to go through some camps, whether it would be fourth grade all the way up to the high school kids. It’s a platform for us to give back.”
Why do you love giving back so much?
“I just think its important when you get put on sort of a pedestal, I guess. You get this opportunity to give back to different people. I think you need to take the opportunity and there are so many people that aren’t taking time to give back. We created our foundation, and didn’t know what exactly we were getting ourselves into, but we knew it was going to be a good thing. It kept growing and growing and we just tried to give back in differnet ways and help as many kids, as many families as we can.”
NFL players have had a troubled offseason in 2013, and as the season approaches the importance of staying out of trouble will be key. As an NFL veteran, Greenway gives advice to how younger players can make good decisions.
What advice would you give to younger players to stay out of trouble?
“The biggest thing I would say is to be who you are. You are here to play football, you are here to represent an organization, and something bigger than yourself. A team, organization, community. Keep that in your mind when you go out when its late at night or when you’re thinking about making a bad decision. Put together the people that are around you first.”
Lastly, as a kid who grew up in a small, rural South Dakota community, Greenway offered some advice for young football players.
What advice would you give to young football players?
“Just keep working. If you put the work in, if you have the talent and the skill, good things will happen.”
Greenway enjoys his opportunity with the Vikings, and isn’t wasting a dream that he had growing up in Mount Vernon, South Dakota.
For this upcoming season, Greenway will hope to anchor a Vikings defense that is hungry to get back to 10-6 and to the playoffs in 2013-2014.