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Class Act, Class Clown: The Lighter Side of Greenway

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Chad Greenway's eyes watered when he described his parents' impact during  his retirement press conference on Tuesday.

Teammates know of Greenway's sincerity and emotion, but they also have enjoyed Greenway's lighter side in the Vikings locker room.

Perhaps fittingly, Greenway capped off his media rounds Tuesday with plenty of laughs during an interview with Vikings analyst and former teammate Ben Leber.

"Loosen up, man," Leber jabbed at Greenway, who wore a tailored suit and tie beneath a slicked-back 'do.

The two former linebackers shared a laugh as they compared hairstyles – or lack thereof in Leber's case, as Greenway pointed out. Greenway before the interview had been gifted with a rookie-year photo autographed by the Vikings PR staff, and he grimaced at the throwback hair.  

"Oh my goodness – the stages of my hair are just ridiculous," Greenway said. "I met my wife with long hair, so someone liked it."

The current look is probably long-term.

"The comb-over's going to stay," he said. "I'm in my second life now."

Added Greenway with a smile: "I have to act mature now, unfortunately."

The laid-back exchange between Leber and Greenway more closely mimicked a lunch-hour conversation than a formal interview.

The pair of South Dakota natives shared a Vikings locker room together for five seasons (2006-10) and were road-trip roommates for a good portion of that time.

"You were always the jokester, and you're always going to be the jokester," Leber said. "You made playing with you a lot of fun."

Fans have long-known Greenway for his toughness between the lines and his classy character, but there's another side of No. 52 that isn't as often put on public display (with the exception off-script appearances on "96 Questions with B-Rob").

"When you're around some people, you become more than just co-workers; they're like your buddies, your friends," Greenway said. "So you feel comfortable enough to give them a little ribbing, a little shot here or there."

Greenway's press conference, while saturated by sincere thank you's and emotional reflection, also demonstrated just that level of rapport he's built with the Vikings organization over the past decade.

When asked about his post-football career plans, Greenway looked toward Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman seated in the front row.

"Well, Rick's not any good, so I'll probably move into that role in the next couple years," Greenway quipped. "I'm already angling."

"I'm going to miss our donut club," Greenway later said. "Sug' (Director of Sports Medicine/Head Certified Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman) said he got donuts. I'm hoping to go finish those off after this. There aren't enough for the media, sorry."

The pranks, inside jokes and locker room camaraderie are at the top of Greenway's list for things he will miss as he hangs up his cleats.

"I need to find a new outlet for that," Greenway told Leber with a laugh. "Because it can't all fall on my wife – that wouldn't be healthy."

The former teammates shared old memories from their time together on – and off – the field.

Leber brought up one passion Greenway possesses that has nothing to do with the gridiron.

"A lot of times we'd sit in the cold tub, and you've got a good crooning voice," Leber said. "You could really croon. Did you ever think of a second career in crooning?"

Greenway just laughed, saying he's not shy about his love for singing. According to Greenway, his four daughters have often been embarrassed, and he'll never pass up an opportunity for karaoke.

The problem, however, is that taking the stage with a mic isn't quite the same as taking the field on game day.

Greenway has been involved with country artist Garth Brooks' foundation, Teammates for Kids, and several years ago had the opportunity to join Garth and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, along with several other professional athletes in Las Vegas.

When the evening led to karaoke, Greenway was one of the first on stage.

"I was singing 'Fishin' in the Dark' by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band because it's obviously one of the best songs of all time," Greenway recalled. "I know this song like the back of my hand. I know the words; I know them all. I don't need the screen, the song comes on, and I just start hittin' it.

"My voice – it was one of those situations where all the moisture in my mouth just left. Instantly," Greenway said, cracking a smile at the flashback. "Obviously I have giant teeth, but when you're so dry that your lips get caught on your teeth, and I'm trying to sing – there's this big crowd of athletes, and Garth's there, Trish is there. They were trying to help me through it. I just could not wait for that song to be over with. So every time I get a chance, I kind of fail. I think I get a little bit of stage fright, I think."

Greenway's 11 years with the Vikings went far beyond the 156 games he suited up for.

His stats will remain in the books, but there's another other side of Greenway – the one that pulled pranks, cracked jokes and laughed every day – that his teammates will miss as he walks away from the locker room but remains in the community.

And as for Greenway's next adventure, his former teammate had some advice for him.

"I think the cold tub crooning worked because you just weren't trying, you were goofing around," Leber said. "Maybe you should just take that approach to your next career."

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