Chad Greenway says his work isn’t done in Minnesota, but his stalwart playing career has come to an end.
Greenway, one of the most durable and productive defenders in Vikings history, was a leading tackler in purple during a decade that boasted five top-10 defenses. His sure tackling on the field mirrored his constant presence as a community leader off it.
Greenway, 34, will make his retirement official today during a news conference at Winter Park. A two-time Pro Bowler, he walks away ranking fourth among the Vikings’ all-time leading tacklers, trailing Scott Studwell, Matt Blair and Jeff Siemon.
“Chad is a true professional,” coach Mike Zimmer said after the Vikings’ season finale. “He’s a leader in the community, a leader on the field. He’s a tremendous competitor. He’s a guy that truly will always be one of my best guys.”
Drafted in the first round (17th overall) in 2006, Greenway rebounded from a torn anterior cruciate ligament during his first preseason game to become one of the franchise’s iron men. He played in 161 of the next 165 games in the 10 seasons after his rookie year.
His six straight seasons as the Vikings’ leading tackler tied Studwell for most in franchise history — and spanned two head coaches and three defensive coordinators. To be the leading tackler for the sixth consecutive year, Greenway played through a fractured wrist for much of 2013.
Along with his 1,334 career tackles, by the Vikings’ count, Greenway also chipped in with 19 sacks, 11 interceptions — two returned for touchdowns — and eight forced fumbles.
“I’m just happy for him, man,” said Brian Robison, drafted by the Vikings one year after Greenway. “For him to have the career he’s had, to play with one team and be able to retire on his own terms, I couldn’t be happier for a guy like that.”
Admiration and well wishes poured in from teammates on social media.
“It has been an incredible honor to call you a teammate and friend,” tight end Kyle Rudolph, Greenway’s teammate since 2011, wrote on Twitter. “You have defined what it means to be a professional. On the field, off the field, the example you set for me and the rest of the guys you played with has been nothing short of amazing. Thank you for everything you have done for me, my family, and the entire state of Minnesota. Enjoy those girls. They are ready for their daddy.”
A handful of injuries, including fractured ribs, during the 2014 season forced Greenway to miss his only game action over a 10-year stretch. A lessened role the past two seasons helped him stay healthy.
So he’s walking out, not limping.
“I feel really good,” Greenway said after the season finale. “You talk to somebody and they say, ‘You play until the wheels fall off, until they won’t let you on the field anymore.’ Some people say, ‘Sign you for a minimum, you keep playing on the way out.’
“And I’m going to decide my own way what I’m going to do. I’ve done that my whole career.”
Greenway was as helpful off the field as he was on it.
He twice took pay cuts toward the end of his career to remain in Minnesota, where the Mount Vernon, S.D., native has raised four children with his wife, Jennifer, and established charitable endeavors to aid sick children and their families in the Twin Cities through his Lead The Way Foundation.
“There are a lot of guys that do it, but I don’t think there are a lot of guys that do it to the level Chad did,” Robison said of Greenway’s community service. “I’m going through that deal now with my foundation. It’s very stressful work, especially if you do a lot of it on your own. I have a newfound respect for the work he did in our community.”
He was also the Vikings’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year honor in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Greenway’s generosity was further recognized with the NFLPA’s Byron “Whizzer” White Award in 2015. And he’s already tackling his next challenge as the captain of volunteer efforts for the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
“There are so many people and relationships that are within the organization that I cherish and hold dear and will continue to have,” he said.