By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The fear of failure — not once, but twice — drove Chad Greenway on the football field.
The quarterback/free safety for his nine-man football team in Mount Vernon, South Dakota, (population 400) was lightly recruited in high school, but the University of Iowa discovered him and offered a scholarship.
“The reality is that football players come from everywhere,” Greenway said. “That was one of (Iowa defensive coordinator) Norm Parker’s best sayings: Football players are everywhere, you just have to go find them.
“For me, I’m appreciative the Hawkeyes drove up to tiny Mount Vernon and found me and were willing to take that risk when they offered a scholarship.”
More than 400 tackles and two Big Ten Conference championships later, Greenway, a linebacker, became the 17th selection in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. In his first preseason game, Greenway tore an ACL.
“You tear your ACL and everybody is talking about a bust, and then there is the pressure you put on yourself for being a first round pick,” Greenway said. “I came to Iowa as an underrated player nobody knew about and now I was a first round pick that had to prove myself.”
He took the year away from football to rehab and understand the difference between being a college and professional player.
“It’s funny that it took the same go-to-work, lunch pail mentality that I had here to get the job done (in Minnesota),” Greenway said. “I was able to climb out of that injury and come back to have a nice career.”
After 11 seasons, 1,334 tackles, and two Pro Bowls, Greenway retired from the Vikings. In his retirement speech last March, he was quick to recognize Iowa’s football program.
“(Iowa) played such a vital role in my career,” Greenway said. “When you talk about retiring from the NFL, clearly that’s an NFL thing, but for me, none of that happens without this place; the unique thing about (Iowa) are the people — coach (Kirk) Ferentz, coach (Chris) Doyle, Phil Parker — these guys are good people and great football coaches. You are so proud as an alum because you know how this place is run.”
Greenway addressed Hawkeye football players and staff as honorary captain Friday evening, the eve of the Big Ten Conference opener against No. 4 Penn State inside Kinnick Stadium. Few Iowa players have enjoyed as much success in Kinnick as Greenway. The Hawkeyes won 22 consecutive home games from 2002-05 and during his four seasons, Greenway was part of 24 victories on 26 Saturdays.
“When you get away from college, you gain perspective on what it means to be a player here, go to college here, and be a student-athlete,” Greenway said. “It is such a special place.”
This isn’t the first time Greenway has been named honorary captain. He did it first on Oct. 2, 2010, when, maybe not-so-coincidentally, Iowa defeated Penn State, 24-3.
Greenway is an epitome of the underdog-to-Fear osuperstar story. But he said his tale doesn’t need to be exclusive.
“If any kid is out there from Nowhere Town, South Dakota, or Minnesota, or Iowa, they will come find you,” Greenway said. “It is worth putting a lot of work in because you could be a Hawkeye.”