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Greenway returns to lead 250 youth football players at free camp

Mount Vernon native and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, center, points out the winner of a foot race at a football camp Tuesday in Mount Vernon. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

MOUNT VERNON -- Back on the field he played on in high school, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway was running around like a kid again.

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Approximately 250 youth football players showed up from around South Dakota to participate in the camp and to get a chance to meet Greenway. Eric Denning, who helped organize the camp, said he was impressed with the turnout despite having just three weeks to get the word out.

The camp, held at the high school football field in Mount Vernon, was free to all participants and open to grades three to 12.

Greenway moved from drill to drill with the participants, staying involved and helping them learn about the game. At times, the Mount Vernon native played quarterback in scrimmage drills, laughing and even celebrating touchdown passes.

"It's great to have all these kids out here, and it's just about having fun," Greenway said. "It's important for us to give something like this back to Mount Vernon."

The nine-year NFL veteran had never held a football-only camp in Mount Vernon. According to Denning, Greenway had helped with football-basketball dual-sport camps in the past.

Coaches from Dakota Wesleyan University and Mitchell High School were on hand to help run the camp. Mount Vernon and Plankinton coaches were also involved.

"You can't get something like this done on such short notice without all of the help from the volunteers and the coaches in the community," Greenway said.

At the conclusion of the camp, Greenway stuck around for 45 minutes to sign autographs and take pictures with each youth football player that wanted one.

Greenway said he hopes the kids learned a little something about football, but also about how to play the game the right way and never give up.

"Not everybody knows just how much of a class act Chad is, and a perfect example is when you look at this football camp, he goes around and makes a personal connection with each and every kid," Chad Harlander, who runs camps with Greenway in Minnesota, said. "He is probably the biggest kid on this field."

Kids came from around the state to get a chance to work with Greenway, including Mike Young, of Watertown, who brought his 10-year-old son, Macaffery Young, to the camp.

"It means a lot to these kids," Mike Young said. "It's very impressive and these things go a long way for a kid."

Mitchell football coach Kent VanOverschelde brought three of his kids to the camp, including 10-year-old Joseph VanOverschelde. Joseph said the biggest thing he learned from the camp was to always work hard and never give up.

"It's fun that we got to spend four and a half hours with Chad Greenway and it's an opportunity that you really can't give away," Joseph said.

With training camp with the Vikings just around the corner, Greenway said he is ready to get back on the field, but is enjoying the time he gets to spend in the offseason doing camps for younger players.