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Chad Greenway Shows Readiness for Evolving Role

Chad Greenway's role has changed in his 10th season with the Vikings, but what his name stands for to people throughout the Midwest hasn't.

The linebacker's snap count has been reduced for much of the season, but his impact remains strong.

So has his readiness to provide whatever, whenever for the Vikings, which was evidenced in Minnesota's 21-18 overtime victory over St. Louis on Sunday.

Greenway's role evolved last week when it was determined that, in addition to his customary weakside linebacker duties in the Vikings base defense, that he'd fill in for inactive rookie Eric Kendricks (ribs) in the nickel package.

Minnesota's needs changed again during the game when Audie Cole, who started in place of Kendricks in base, suffered an ankle injury midway through the fourth quarter. Greenway took snaps at middle linebacker for the first time.

The Vikings forced two punts and a missed field goal on three of the Rams final four possessions. St. Louis tied the game with a 53-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining, and out went Greenway with Everson Griffen for the coin toss before overtime.

The Vikings won the toss, and Greenway relayed the message that the Vikings wanted to defend with the wind at their back. Minnesota forced a quick punt, got a 26-yard return by Marcus Sherels and a 40-yard walk-off winner by Blair Walsh.

Greenway played all 74 defensive snaps and was credited with 10 tackles and a tackle for loss by press box statisticians (and 12 tackles by Vikings coaches) in a win that moved the Vikings (6-2) into a first-place tie with the Packers in the NFC North. He was selected as this week's Bridgestone Performance of the Week.

"Old Chad Greenway," said defensive end Brian Robison, who is 32, the same age as Greenway, but was drafted a year after the Vikings selected Greenway in 2006. "You can always count on him. He's Mr. Reliable, and no matter what situation he gets put in, he just seems to go out there and help the team win."

Greenway's long-term personal goal — one he set when he left high school for Iowa — has been "to honor my dad's last name on the back of my jersey and make it stand for something. I've tried to do that and hope to accomplish it."

Memories are mounting for Greenway and teammates. He's leading a young and talented position group on and off the field. Prior to this week's win, Greenway came up big in moments that mattered in wins against the Chargers and at the Lions.

The first — a one-handed interception that Greenway returned 91 yards for a touchdown to ice the game against San Diego — provided an experience for four generations of Greenways.

Tom Greenway, 83, the father of Chad's late father, Alan, attended his first Vikings game that day. Tom is an egg and dairy farmer who picked the perfect time to travel from South Dakota to see his grandson's pick against Philip Rivers, the 10th interception of Greenway's career.

Greenway's oldest daughter, Maddyn, joined him at the post-game press conference podium as Chad said Tom is a guy that "you're proud to have as a grandpa. … For me, it's about carrying that legacy forward."

Moments later, Maddyn and her sister, Beckett, lined up at the 9-yard line where their dad had caught the ball and recreated the run to the end zone.

"That was cool. It's always a fun situation as we walk out of TCF where they get to go on the field and nobody's out there so they can run around," Greenway said. "That was a great weekend for our family, to have my grandfather, my mother and a bunch of family there."

Being able to share a moment with so much meaning to so many is rewarding for the time spent away from the family that started with a Saturday morning drive. Greenway arrived in Mankato in July wearing a T-shirt featuring a farm scene and a screeching bald eagle against the backdrop of the Stars and Stripes. It said "American Made" across the top.

A week later the 32-year-old Greenway threw a football with his two oldest daughters and carried his youngest daughter, Blakely, dressed in a football onesie, across the turf after the Vikings hosted Family Night at training camp.

"Our kids, this is their life. They love the Vikings and the NFL," Greenway said. "It will almost be harder on them than anybody else when we're done playing, but you know, they love everything about it. It makes them competitive. It's been good for them in a bunch of different ways, but it's fun for them to be part of this. They're our lives. We do everything for them and try to better their lives, so it's nice to see them start their own personalities and take shape, yet take a lot of pride in being a part of this organization."

The second substantial play swung momentum for the Vikings during a visit to Detroit. Greenway utilized a delayed blitz and sacked Matthew Stafford, the first of a seven-sack spree that included 2.0 by Kendricks and 1.0 by Anthony Barr.

The pair of promising linebackers have benefitted from Greenway's leadership.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he and Greenway reviewed tape this offseason after Zimmer's first season in Minnesota, and Greenway impressed him with how receptive he was to feedback on areas where he could continue to improve.

"I think Chad is playing good. He seems to be having a lot of fun," Zimmer said. "The one thing I respect the most about Chad is even though he's in his 10th year, or last year when he was in his ninth year, we were trying to teach him a lot of different things that he hadn't done before. That's the kind of guy he is.

"We were talking [recently], and he just enjoys winning," Zimmer added. "He said, 'I don't have to be the star of the team. Winning is fun.' "

View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the Nov. 8 game against St. Louis.

Greenway said it's taken a little adjustment to rotate in and out of the game, but he's kept his focus sharp on being at the right place at the right time, knowing his role, maintaining his readiness, making a difference during his reps and savoring the snaps.

"When you buy into something like we're buying in, it's not about who's on the field or what's the situation or the role," Greenway said after Minnesota's fourth win in a row. "It's about how do you figure out how to win this game? If you can get over yourself, and there are a lot of players on this team that have done that. Everybody on the team is unselfish, and we just want to go out there and grind out our roles."

Regardless of the role that awaits Greenway the rest of the season, he'll continue to share what he knows and loves with his Vikings family for a new generation of linebackers.

"Anthony and Eric are playing really well. I'm coming in and trying to play my role as well as I can," Greenway added. "Our special teams guys — Audie, Edmond Robinson and Brandon Watts are all doing a great job. If you look at the statistics, we're making a difference for this team. It's still early. We have a long way to go."

A decade and a half beyond that pledge out of high school, the commitment to honor it continues for Greenway, a two-time Community Man of the Year and 2015 Byron "Whizzer" White Award winner.

"Honor means you've stood for something. Your name stands for something more than your football accomplishments," Greenway said. "Obviously we've done a lot of different things in the community and tried to always give back and put other people before ourselves. I think it's an important lesson, no matter what your role is in life or what your resources are, to always put other people in front of yourself."

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