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Chad Greenway Ready to Go the Distance

Chad Greenway had plenty of gas in his tank on his 91-yard interception return against the Chargers last season, and he hasn't hit empty yet.

Greenway made it to the end zone that day. He's aiming for much more than that in 2016, his 11th – and what could be his final – run with the Vikings. After finishing last season 11-5, reclaiming the NFC North title and making a playoff appearance, the team wants to go the distance this season.

"We understood what it took to get there," Greenway said. "We know what intensity it took, we know what type of dedication it took, and we need to learn from those experiences to know that we can also do that again this year, and then some – take it to the next level.

"It's going to take everything we've done and then a little more," he added.

While Greenway knows he can't take last year's success for granted, he also feels the Vikings are poised to defend the North – and that's his mentality heading into the season.

"It's been laid out in front of us – the path that we took last year – that we know we can do those things," Greenway said.

As a veteran still studying the game, Greenway said he and his teammates know why 2015's losses were losses and wins were wins. There were things to correct and improve, and the linebacker spent his offseason focusing on those areas.

View photos of Vikings legend Chad Greenway who celebrates his birthday on Jan. 12.

"The tough situations – the two-minute situations, the end-of-game situations – that we were good and bad at last year really defined our season," Greenway said. "We need to understand that as a team, and we've gone through that this offseason. Now, to learn from that and catapult us into a new beginning in 2016 and hopefully more wins."

Greenway embraced a revised role in 2015, willing to do whatever was necessary to help the team succeed. He finished with 86 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and the memorable interception – the sixth longest return by a linebacker in NFL history.  

The 33-year-old is still going strong, and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

"Chad has had one of his better camps," Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said. "It's amazing the shape he came in and the mission that he's on."

Greenway's mission is to bring a Super Bowl trophy to Minnesota. His quest has spanned 10 seasons and three different fields. He played eight seasons in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome before braving the elements for consecutive seasons outdoors at the University of Minnesota. Sunday will mark Greenway's first game in the Vikings brand new home at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Each has held its share of memories – from the crowd noise and nostalgia in the Dome, to hot wins in frigid temps at the U of M, to ushering in a new era of Vikings football.

"It's been fun on every level," Greenway said. "We just heard the noise [at the Metrodome]. It was such a home-field advantage for us."

He went on to emphasize that the Vikings created history in 2015 by being the first team to make it to the playoffs in a temporary stadium.

"We overcame some obstacles there, but we understood what it was going to take to do that," Greenway said. "And now to move in to our new digs at U.S. Bank [Stadium] is going to be so sweet.

"A guy like myself who's going to live in the Twin Cities after my career is done, it's so great for our community to have something like that to bring in big events, and we can show off our city for what it is," Greenway added. "And to get a chance to play in there is going to be incredible."

Just over 10 years ago, Greenway sat surrounded by friends and family at his parents' farmhouse in Mt. Vernon, South Dakota. When he picked up the landline phone to hear he'd be drafted by an NFL team just 313 miles from his hometown, little did he know the career he'd have.

Now, after three stadiums, three head coaches, 140 games, 1,289 tackles, a charity foundation and three daughters with a fourth on the way, Greenway couldn't imagine calling anywhere else home.

"I honestly think Chad is one of the most popular Vikings in the history of the organization," said KFAN's "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen. "He's from the Midwest, he lives in Minnesota, he's proud to live here, he'll raise his kids here – even after his career is done. He's been a tackling machine on the field, and he has longevity. Chad definitely will go down in history."

When Greenway lines up for the first time at U.S. Bank Stadium, for his likely last run in purple and gold, he wants to soak it all in, make every snap count. Above anything, however, he wants to enjoy himself.

"I don't think it's going to be emotional – I think it's going to be fun," Greenway said. "I think it's going to be living it up every minute."

He showed this in Seattle when he hoisted Minnesota native Marcus Sherels over his shoulder after the Vikings cornerback returned an interception 53 yards for a touchdown to help Minnesota defeat Seattle 18-11. It was a preseason game that won't count in the standings, but yet another memorable moment.

Whether it's the grind of summer training camp or the ups and downs of a 17-week season, the fun of football has never been lost on Greenway. And he said it all boils down to the camaraderie in the locker room, an irreplaceable brotherhood.

"You know, you could have a guy that grew up in the country in South Dakota like myself and went to Iowa, to a guy that grew up in the city on the East Coast, and they have nothing really in common," Greenway said. "But then for them to be in the locker room together, fighting for one goal – I think it's a unique perspective on life, professional sports, for that reason.

"The cultural divide is seemingly non-existent, because we come together and form this team that really comes across from all different walks of life," Greenway said. "It's what makes it so fun to be a part of it, and it's the thing that you'll miss the most."

Three weeks ago, Greenway once again sat surrounded by family – this time, on the field at Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato, following the night training camp practice. Beside him sat his wife, Jenni, and his daughters – Maddyn, Beckett and Blakely – waiting to take in the post-practice fireworks show. The three girls each wore a variation of Greenway's jersey, with "Daddy" spelled out over the 52.

Moments before, Greenway ran through a mini practice with his daughters, already little athletes taking after their parents. He rotated through a pair of human JUGS machines, snagging footballs slung at him by Maddyn and Beckett. Blakely, not yet 2 years old, toddled – quite quickly – after the group in yellow Converse sneakers. 

Greenway rested there on the 10-yard line, but only for a moment. He's ready for number 11.

"I'm here to cherish every moment, knowing it could be your last, and just enjoy the ride," Greenway said. "It's been such an unbelievable career and experience so far. I'm just looking to continue and expand on it."

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