Vikings get their kind of linebacker in Greenway

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 1, 2006

MOUNT VERNON, S.D. (AP) &045; The newest Minnesota Viking thanked residents in his hometown for helping him reach the NFL Saturday before heading off to the Twin Cities.

Chad Greenway, the Iowa linebacker picked by the Vikings with the 17th selection, watched the draft on ESPN at the family farm in Mount Vernon. After receiving the good news, he headed into town to share it with some of Mount Vernon’s 470 residents.

&8220;This doesn’t happen to every small town in the world, but it happened to us,&8221; Greenway told the crowd gathered at the Mount Vernon High School gym. &8220;I want to thank all of you for being behind me the whole way.&8221;

Greenway also took a lighthearted jab at the town’s Green Bay fans.

&8220;I know we got some Packer fans around here,” Greenway said, “but you’re going to have to switch over. To be honest with you, you’re all going to have to get rid of that Packer crap.&8221;

Many residents packed Wermers’ Lounge and Steakhouse on Main Street to watch the draft on the bar’s big-screen television.

&8220;Chad was good at whatever he did,&8221; said Adam Hanson, one of Greenway’s high school teammates. &8220;Any of us could vouch for that. I think we’re really happy for him because we know

he worked for whatever he got. It’s not like he had this all given to him. I guess I’m officially a Vikings fan now &045; I never was one before.&8221;

Alan Greenway, Chad’s father, said he’s glad his son will be playing within driving distance.

&8220;Chad wanted to go to a team in the Midwest because he’s a Midwest kind of guy,&8221; Alan Greenway said. &8220;It’s been a very rewarding experience for us and for the town.&8221;

Greenway had been projected to go somewhere between No. 11 and No. 28, and he said Saturday that the final hours before he was picked were a bit stressful.

&8220;I didn’t get nervous until they got to the ninth or tenth pick,&8221; Greenway said. &8220;Then things got a little edgy. For the most part, I just relaxed, but when it got to crunch time … the last six picks were taking forever.&8221;

Cell phone service can be spotty in Mount Vernon, and Greenway said the Vikings’ first call didn’t go through.

&8220;I tried to answer it, but we don’t have any cell towers out here,” Greenway said. &8220;I saw that it was a Minnesota area code, though, so I knew it had a chance of being the call.&8221;

A few moments later, the home phone rang right and Greenway gave his family a thumbs up.

Day II

Ray Edwards was benched midway through his junior season at Purdue and admits that he

underachieved last year.

Still, the defensive end decided to leave school early, and he was drafted in the fourth round on Sunday by the Minnesota Vikings, who also traded for a veteran starter at right guard and selected Georgia safety Greg Blue in the fifth round to cap the first draft of the Brad Childress era.

Sure, Edwards could have stayed for his senior season and greatly improved his draft stock. But he said he didn’t have a choice.

“When you come home from school on breaks and there’s no food in the house really to eat and you have to go hang out with your friends to eat, it’s kind of hard to stay in school,” Edwards said.

He grew up poor in Cincinnati and came to Purdue as a highly touted recruit, hoping to parlay his exceptional speed and impressive size into NFL riches to support his family.

After a strong sophomore season in which he had eight sacks and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention, Edwards was considered one of the better defensive linemen in the country at the start of last season.

But he never fulfilled that promise, managing just 5 1/2 sacks in six starts, eventually losing his job to Rob Ninkovich.

“Definitely it was a coaching thing, and I wasn’t playing my greatest football at that time, and that’s the way it goes,” Edwards said.

Director of college scouting Scott Studwell said the team wasn’t concerned with Edwards’ reported clashes with Purdue coaches.

“I know there were some problems, some conflicts between he and the coaching staff,” Studwell said. “I think they made business personal to be honest with you. … We fully expect him to come in here and be a very compliant team player first. He is a tremendous talent. He is a player that has a world of potential that is still somewhat raw.”

Edwards will be joining a deep defensive line in Minnesota. Ends Kenechi Udeze, Erasmus James, Darrion Scott and DeQuincy Scott are already on the team, and Studwell said it could take awhile for Edwards to develop his skills.

“They have a great line there that I definitely can learn from,” Edwards said.

Despite his family’s struggles, the biggest knock on Edwards appears to be a lack of motivation. Scouts question his desire to play hard on every down and chase plays from the backside.

“Is there a little immaturity? Sure,” Childress said. “But I think the upside of that guy is tremendous.”

The Vikings grabbed him after trading down with Philadelphia _ giving the Eagles their fourth-rounder and a sixth-round pick for the Eagles’ fourth-rounder and veteran guard Artis Hicks.

Hicks started 14 games at left guard for the Eagles last season and 31 in his five years in Philadelphia. With All-Pro Steve Hutchinson on the left side, Childress has penciled in Hicks as the starter at right guard, with holdovers Chris Liwienski and Adam Goldberg providing depth.

“Anytime you can get a starter for something like that, it’s a pretty good deal,” Childress said.

With their final pick of the day, the Vikings selected Blue, an AP All-American and the latest in a growing list of NFL-caliber safeties from Georgia.

An aggressive hitter, if not a sure tackler, Blue will compete with Willie Offord and Dustin Fox to backup starters Darren Sharper and Tank Williams. There is an outside chance that the 6-2, 216-pounder could eventually move up to linebacker, much like Colts’ Pro Bowler Cato June did when he was drafted out of Michigan.

“Right now I heard safety, but you never know,” Blue said.