One reason the Vikings drafted Chad Greenway 17th overall in 2006 was because of the friendship of then-Vikings coach Brad Childress and Iowa assistant coach Norm Parker, who was on the Gophers staff from 1972 to ’76 and at Iowa from 1999 to 2011.
If it wasn’t for that connection between Childress and Parker, the Vikings might have taken somebody else, at least that is what Childress told me.
Parker, who died in 2014, told me at the time that Greenway was the best linebacker he ever coached.
Greenway has lived up to all of the good things Parker said about him and, after missing the 2006 season because of a torn ACL, he has been a quality NFL linebacker ever since.
There’s no question Greenway wants to play for the Vikings next season, and the Vikings have indicated they want him back. He is an unrestricted free agent, but took a pay cut the past two seasons, earning a base salary of $5.5 million in 2014 and $3.4 million in 2015.
Greenway not only does the job on the field, but his leadership in the locker room matches anybody who has ever played for the Vikings. So for somebody like me who doesn’t know anything about X’s and O’s, I think it would be a big mistake to not bring Greenway back because he is determined to play somewhere.
Last season Greenway, who just turned 33, recorded 68 tackles to tie with Anthony Barr for the third-best total on the team, behind Eric Kendricks and Andrew Sendejo, despite playing limited snaps in several games.
Greenway has 735 career tackles and sits only 36 tackles behind Carl Lee as the career Vikings leader and two behind Chris Doleman for second.
The Vikings’ season ended with a crushing 10-9 loss to the Seahawks in an NFC wild-card playoff game, and when Greenway was asked about his future, he said a big part of coming back is wanting a better ending with this squad.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Greenway said. “We’ve been on such a groove with the season and it has been a lot of fun with this football team and seeing how things have gone throughout the course of the year has been such a privilege and an honor to play on this team specifically.
“It has been a little bit different with just the cast of characters we have, specifically in our room and really across this team. It has been a lot of fun. It’s a decision that’s going to have to come, but I’m going to play football. I have to play one more year. It just can’t seem to end like this.”
Greenway said one of the best aspects of this season was working under defense-minded coach Mike Zimmer. Greenway was full of praise for him.
“We just have so much respect and we’re impressed by his consistency as a coach throughout the season and his expectations from day one to today,” he said. “When the season [was] on the line, he keeps us where we need to be mentally and he challenges us every day.
“I think I haven’t seen a guy coach a football team better than that for an entire season. To think about it in that perspective, he never lets up, never lets us get a chance to rest, good or bad. We play a good game and he’s going to be on us for the things we did poorly, but he also understands after a tough loss, we need to get back in and get back in the groove.
“He has handled the situation amazingly well in two years and it has been an honor to play for him for two years.”
One thing Greenway and the Vikings front office agreed on is that he was an important veteran presence for a rapidly improving young defense.
Greenway was asked what has it meant to him to be a team captain.
“It’s a lot of fun to be a veteran leader with this group because they’re so hungry to do well,” he said. “They have so much fun but yet when it’s time to work, they work.”
Greenway liked the chemistry of the team so much that he believed there would be great benefit in bringing the bulk of the team back next season.
“We’ve come together to such a tight group and I think there’s so many different factors that go into that from where our players come from, the age gaps that we have in some rooms,” he said. “We just have a nice mix. But you know it’s the NFL, there’s change that happens. It’s inevitable with free agency and new guys coming in, so that’s just the reality. This cast of characters, as much as we’d like to stay together, is not going to be together.
“… We have such a young, solid core of guys across the board at positions and as an organization, it’s exciting. I think our fanbase is really excited.”
• Former Gopher Tom Lehman has golfed in three Champions Tour events this season and has earned $270,989, the fourth-highest total on the tour. Lehman finished second at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, fifth at the Allianz Championship, and tied for 29th in the Chubb Classic last week.
• Troy Merritt, who attended Spring Lake Park High School and golfed at Winona State for two years, had his best season on the PGA Tour last year, earning nearly $2.1 million and winning his first tournament — the Quicken Loans National in Gainesville, Va. — in 109 events. This year he has played in eight events, made the cut in two and earned $168,400. He finished tied for 21st at the CIMB Classic in November and tied for 18th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January.
• Baseball America’s list of the Top 100 prospects in the minor leagues features three Twins in the top 30, all of whom should play with the major league squad this season. Presumptive Opening Day center fielder Byron Buxton finished at No. 2, pitcher Jose Berrios was at No. 28 and outfielder/first baseman Max Kepler was at No. 30.
• Former Gophers center/forward Mo Walker left VL Pesaro in Italy and will sign with Keravnos Strovolou in Cyprus. He averaged 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13 games at Serie A, the top league in Italy. … Elliott Eliason is averaging 4.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17.0 minutes per game for Jelgava in Latvia. … Austin Hollins is playing for Denain ASC Voltaire in France’s Pro B league and averaging 12.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals in 26.2 minutes per game. … Andre Hollins is in Belgium with the Stella Artois Leuven Bears and is leading the team in scoring at 17.5 points per game. He’s shooting 47.9 percent from the field and also averaging 3.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 33.5 minutes per game.
• Former Gophers All-America Hassan Mead clocked a personal record time of 7 minutes, 40.95 seconds in the 3,000 meters at the House of Track. The performance, which was well under the qualifying standard for the World Indoor Championships, earned Mead a second-place finish.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com