Chad Greenway is embracing a youth movement.
The former Iowa linebacker is an elder statesman for the Minnesota Vikings, a franchise that advanced to the NFL playoffs last season and continues to overhaul its roster.
“We’re very excited about where we’re at,” said Greenway, a seven-year veteran, “and we’re also very excited about where we’re about to go.”
Greenway is on the move this summer, splitting time between his training and serving as a spokesman for America Needs Farmers (ANF).
“It’s something that’s obviously very close and hits home with me,” said Greenway, who grew up in Mount Vernon, S.D. “Americas’ farmers, in my opinion, never get enough credit, especially the small family farmers who put it on the line every day to feed the United States, feed the world.”
Greenway grew from a small-town prospect to a Hawkeye fan favorite from 2002 to 2005.
He is now a two-time pro-bowler for the Vikings, making 533 career tackles while anchoring a defense that include pass-rush specialist Jared Allen.
The offense is propelled by star running back Adrian Peterson, but also hinges on the development of third-year quarterback Christian Ponder and an unheralded receiving corps.
“It always does fall on some key positions,” Greenway said. “We need Christian to take a huge step forward and he’s going to do that, and working on that daily. But we also have some young guys who are ready to really sprout out in the NFL and make a name for themselves.”
Three potential breakout performers were acquired in April’s NFL draft:
— Sharrif Floyd, a defensive tackle from Florida, was selected in the first round after earning all-America honors. He should bolster an already solid front four.
— Xavier Rhodes, another first-round pick, will make an impact at cornerback after intercepting eight passes during his career at Florida State.
— Cordarrelle Patterson, a receiver from Tennessee, could fill a void that was created when the Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks.
“We’re going to have a very competitive training camp,” general manager Rick Spielman told reporters after the draft. “And by creating that competition, it’s going to really make players better.”
Greenway, meanwhile, seems comfortable with his role.
“From my perspective, it starts with me as a leader, being one of the older veteran guys in this organization,” he said. “It starts with me leading by example. Lead by words and take my game to the next level.”
Greenway averaged 12 tackles per game last fall, helping the Vikings rebound from a 3-13 record in 2011 to a 10-6 mark in ’12.
They eventually lost to the Green Bay Packers 24-10 in the wild-card round.
“Even though we got beat out in the playoffs, you’ve got to take a ton of positives out of what we were able to do,” Greenway said. “We had so many rookies who played pivotal positions, who stepped in and played like seasoned veterans.
“They got a bunch of recognition, but they deserved it.”
Greenway was recently voted the league’s 70th best player by his peers, as shown on NFL Network.
“This year the vibe is, we’re (still) getting young,” he said. “We’ve moved on from a couple different veterans who were exceptional players.”
For the up-and-coming Vikings, the initiation period will be brief.
“The days of hazing and pushing your rookies away are sort of well into the past,” Greenway said. “Now, it’s more of, we embrace these guys, because these guys may be the ones helping us win ballgames on Sunday.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football