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Chatting with Chad Greenway


Preet Shah / August 8th, 2019 / Photo: Chad Greenway

    I was recently very fortunate to be able to Interview former Pro Bowl linebacker and career Minnesota Viking Chad Greenway. He was kind enough to speak on everything from his playing career, his opinions on some of the new rules, and what he’s up to post-retirement. We at VikingNations thank Mr.Greenway for his time and ask you to check out his family foundation and Gray Duck Vodka.

When did you decide, as a multi-sport athlete in high school, that football was the sport for you?

Greenway: “I really didn’t decide, I actually was a four sport athlete out of high school, loved basketball and track, but it really came down to receiving a high level Big 10 offer for football, which I only received one but that really set the tone for where I was gonna go.”

Who was the person you were closest with on the team and who was the most talented player you played with on defense?

Greenway: “I would say that the closest guy was definitely Ben Leber and the most talented is Jared Allen and you could also put Kevin Williams up there.” 

Who was your favorite coach that you have ever played for?

Greenway: “The most talented coach I ever played for in my career, it would be hard to go against Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, and he's talented in multiple ways: in one sense he's taking 18 to 22-year-old guys and making them into men and great people. I would say the most talented football coach from an Xs and Os standpoint and a motivational standpoint is Coach Zimmer. 

As far as Xs and Os, he’s brilliant, and he understands the game at another level that I never had an opportunity to learn until I met him. He teaches you another level of the game and how to see it differently from a defensive standpoint. Given that he did that on the other side of the ball as well, I would say hands down Coach Zimmer because he has the total package.

What was the hardest transition to make in your specific position from a Leslie Frazier lead defense to a Mike Zimmer lead defense?

Greenway: “Just learning really how to blitz and learning how to be that player to fit the more aggressive style. The Tampa 2 system I played for 8 years under Mike Tomlin and Leslie Frazier was more of the ‘bend but don't break’ mentality. In that system it was more of a 'we will give you yards but make the stop when we need to,' and we had some very successful years with that style of defense, but Coach Zimmer is much more about playing downhill, being the aggressor, and more of taking the game to the offense. I think that was something I had to learn and try to fit more of the attack mentality, and from a schematic standpoint it was about getting better in Man Coverage and learning how to blitz.”

You played against a lot of great players in practice like Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre, what do you think is one thing that you've learned from them by facing them every day? 

Greenway: “I would say from guys like Brett, it was learning how to anticipate but also how to have fun and love the game. Brett had a love for the game and a certain kid mentality with the game that kept him playing for so long at such a high level. He was never into the ‘Normal’ stereotypical way to prepare for the game, but he was such a talented player. 

The NFL is a reaction business and you just really have to let your instincts play and I feel like that's how Brett played. Now you hear about these Quarterbacks who are really smart, try to see what happens before the play comes, and know what to expect - I would say that Brett had all of those intangibles. What made him really legendary was his ability just to play and react to what he saw, and just go do it and that's what he did really well. Adrian was just a guy who was just physically so good, and it was incredible to see him just constantly stay on top with the way he trained.”

Most people grow up wanting to play offense and score touchdowns, you got 2 touchdowns in your career while playing defense, what was the feeling like after scoring a touchdown?

Greenway: “Well it's even sweeter as a defensive player because they don't come as often, but it's certainly a great feeling and it's something you certainly can't put into words. It's a feeling of complete exhilaration and excitement, especially when you’re surrounded by your teammates.”

In the 2009 NFC championship game there was a 4th and inches in overtime where it had looked like you had knocked the ball out of Pierre Thomas’s hands, what was your initial reaction after that play and after it was ruled a first down?

Greenway: “Yeah, I knew I had knocked the ball loose and knocked him back, so the initial feeling was that he had got the yardage he needed on the initial jump - which was like 4 inches. Although I didn't think he was stopped on the first surge, it turned out when the ball is knocked loose, it needed to be re-spotted where he recollected the ball - and with the re-spot he clearly would have been short. 

I mean it was just a play in a football game that turned into be a controversial play even though it was just a 6-inch difference. That's just how football works and it was just one of those situations where if that play happens now you feel like it's probably re-spotted, but the game in 2009 just didn't have that level of review, and they were not willing to flip that call in that situation. But certainly, on a 4th down it turned into an impactful situation.”

What was the locker room feeling after you had later found out about Bountygate? 

Greenway: “No it wasn't, certainly was not. It was just really a feeling of sheer disappointment. Disappointment in ourselves because when you turn the football over as many times as we did against a good football team. I'd love to say we were the better football team on paper and in that game, to be in that game with 5 turnovers was pretty incredible, but at the end of the day we weren't the better team, we didn't win and you have to move on, but certainly sheer disappointment after walking back into that locker room. 

It wasn't a sense that we had got robbed or screwed or jobbed, it was just a sense of we didn't do enough. That's just the way it was. You come to find out that some other shenanigans were going on but I still don't know that impacted the direct outcome of the game, although I know some Vikings fans will certainly argue with me on that.”

How do you feel about the new NFL rules that clearly favor the offensive player and how would you try to work around them?

Greenway: “Yeah it's an ongoing challenge. I would just try to take the rule in and understand it and try to react and play that way. A defensive player isn't going to always be 100 percent perfect and clean, and you are going to have some issues with timing and people having their bodies in different positions. It's a tough thing to pull off: slow down, lift your head, or whatever the situation. I get the rule, it trying to protect offensive player and people who put fans in seats so it is what it is and as a defensive player you complain, you whine, and you just go play. That's the way it goes.”

What made you want to stay in Minnesota your whole playing career in an era where players move around all the time?

Greenway:  “Close to home for me, being from South Dakota, and my wife and I went to school at the University of Iowa, so it's just felt like home to us. The team took care of me and I got my second contract and I really thought about where we were, so I took a pay cut at the back part of the contract and I thought about what kind of legacy I wanted to leave, what kind of player I wanted to be, and what type of person I wanted to be in the fan’s eyes. 

If you ask people now, nobody remembers that I took a pay cut, nobody remembers all the bad things that happened, they just remember a guy who finished his the Minnesota Vikings and being a Viking for life and that's something that I am very proud of and that happy to have been a part of. Looking back the controlled years of my career were important and I’m certainly thankful that the organization, the Wilf family, and Rick Spielman put me in that position, Obviously had something to do with my play and ability but also my leadership qualities and consistency things that they look for in a football player, to be more than just a player but organizationally someone who can help the team.”

What season in your 11 year career and what moment in particular stands out as your most memorable?

Greenway: “2009, just making it to the pinnacle of the football world, there was just 1 game left that we never got to but that was the highest level. Although it was a disappointing moment, looking back it was a cool part of my career and amazing to just play in that kind of game. To have a good game against the Saints and to play well was so cool, and it's one of those things where you look back and say that was one of the highest points of anybody's career - it’s a bad situation because we lost, but it's a pretty good bad situation.”

Did you ever have one specific moment when you knew you wanted to retire? 

My retirement was just a growing concept of my family and my personal life becoming much more important professional life and it always was priority but football and my weekends and the things that I was doing when my kids were younger was something I wasn't willing to miss any longer for my career, with my career being near the end the mentality was that I felt so good about being done that I was done with the process so to speak. The moment when I knew that I had one exact year left was when Blair missed the Kick in the playoffs against Seattle, I knew I couldn't end my career on those terms. 

That moment solidified in my head that I needed one more opportunity at this, I just didn't want that to be the last moment I remembered. Coming back the next year we didn't have the year that we wanted, finishing .500 with a win against Chicago at US Bank Stadium. Getting to play in US Bank stadium for the first year was so impactful that it was just the perfect storm to be done that year.”

What was the hardest transition from your career to your retired life?

Greenway: “Nothing from a football perspective. I really haven’t missed the game and the competition. I feel like when I played, I competed as highly as I could and gave everything I had. I felt like I had nothing left in the tanks so to speak so I never had that what if mentality going into retirement so that's been really nice. I have kept myself busy in my personal life with my kids, my Vodka brand, and everything else I have going on. Staying busy and enjoying what I'm doing is really the most important thing. I'm fortunate enough financially to be able to do what I want to do to an extent.”

Anything you would like to endorse?

Greenway: “My family foundation, we would love for readers to get involved in our family foundation, and you can go to to learn more about the things that we do and the kids and the families we affect. I would love for people to get involved and request the Vikings fans who've been so supportive of what we have done to stay involved. Also, Gray Duck Vodka - our brand was launched in August and we are a Minnesota-based Vodka company that I am a partner in and part of the day to day process.”