FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Sunday night, the bright lights of South Beach will play host to the biggest sporting event in the world: Super Bowl 54.
Every player’s journey to this moment is difficult, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who took a harder path than Dre Greenlaw.
“He was a little snot. He was a talented kid, real raw; kind of like a wild Mustang out on the prairie. Just hard to tame,” said Daryl Patton.
Daryl Patton coached Greenlaw during his time at Fayetteville. Dre’s journey has been well documented, bouncing from foster homes to eventually his permanent one with then-assistant coach Brian Early and his wife Nanci.
“When he was in ninth grade, you’d never have dreamed where he was at today,” Patton said. “Just a lot of perseverance and love that has come in and helped him out. It’s made the world of a difference.”
Dre’s journey on the field nearly led him away from Arkansas, until one Friday night during Dre’s senior year.
“You know, I talked to Coach Bielema a million times. I said, ‘You’re making a mistake. This kid is unbelievable. You need to offer him,'” Patton said. “And the night that Rob Smith, the defensive coordinator, he came to Southside to watch him play, and Dre — he showed out. Had three interceptions, highlight catches, great tackles, and after the game, I was talking to Coach Smith and he said, ‘Wow, we were missing the boat.'”
Greenlaw played 38 games in his four-year career for the Hogs, recording 321 tackles, four sacks, and three interceptions.
“Overachieved in a lot of people’s eyes and he’s going to the NFL. A lot of people didn’t think he’d make it. Fifth-round draft pick and all he’s done is prove people wrong and I’m just very, very proud of him,” Patton said.
“I never imagined wearing an NFC Championship t-shirt,” said Greenlaw. “Growing up, I just wanted to go to the NFL. Not necessarily a Super Bowl; I really didn’t know what that would mean. It was more of just, you know, I love playing football.”
As Greenlaw approaches the biggest game of his life, his old high school coach couldn’t help but give him a few final words of encouragement–or something like that.
“I talked to him on Monday and he said he was going to go get that MVP and I said, ‘You do it, and then you tell everyone Coach Patton taught you all those things!'” Patton said. “He laughed and said, ‘Will do.’ But don’t hold that against him, he may do it.”
“I don’t know, man. Just something you never really dreamed of. There’s not too many people that go to the Super Bowl,” Greenlaw said.