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Greenway leads Vikings with pick-six

Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway (52) breaks a tackle from San Diego Chargers offensive guard Kenny Wiggins (79) after an interception during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Chargers 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Greenway picked a fine time to attend his first Vikings game Sunday, with grandson Chad Greenway flashing catch-and-run skills reminiscent of his 9-on-9 high school days on the fields of rural South Dakota.

The 82-year-old patriarch of the extended farming clan was at TCF Bank Stadium to witness Greenway’s interception and 91-yard touchdown rumble, the fourth-quarter dagger that punctuated another punishing defensive showing in Minnesota’s 31-14 victory over the San Diego Chargers.

The linebacker believes his late father, Alan, who died of leukemia in December, also had a hand in the play that quickly became part of family lore.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings comfortably were leading by 17 points, but San Diego was in the red zone. On third and 10 from 14, Rivers threw a pass that appeared to be deflected by something or some force into Greenway’s hands.

“You just have to think my dad tipped the ball up. That’s all I can put together,” he said.

It was only the start of his great adventure.

Greenway quickly was enveloped in a cocoon of teammates, at least a half dozen, who shepherded him down the right sideline and reveled in the old man’s second interception return for a touchdown and first since Nov. 25, 2007, against the New York Giants.

“It was quite the convoy,” he said. “It was pretty amazing just to see all my teammates on the sidelines. I must be doing something right, so it was pretty awesome.”

The Vikings’ sideline erupted and quickly morphed into a Keystone Kops routine.

Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray stepped in front of an official racing to keep pace with the play. The pair crashed into coach Mike Zimmer, causing the three men to tumble over like bowling pins, drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty for excessive celebration.

Fellow linebacker Anthony Barr was so excited he almost beat Greenway to the end zone.

“Dude, I hopped off the sideline; I might have gotten the penalty,” he said. “It’s awesome. He’s an unbelievable player. I love Chad. Just an awesome person.”

Greenway’s 10th season in Minnesota is trending toward his swan song. He is 32 years old and has had his pay slashed the past two years.

His days are finished as a three-down defender behind younger, more athletic linebackers like Barr, Eric Kendricks and Gerald Hodges. Marginalized but never moody, Greenway has accepted his limited role like the professional he has been since arriving here in 2006 out of the University of Iowa, which explains the universal love in the locker room.

“It’s great,” Zimmer said. “He’s a class, class guy. He’s a captain, leader, and I’m talking to him all the time. I told him he would play more this week because I knew the no-huddle would tend to get us a lot more guys in there, so we’re still looking at things.

Greenway was summoned to the postgame interview room, a rarity for him, and brought his oldest daughter, Maddyn, onstage as his wingman. Accountable win or lose, he typically holds court in front of his locker, always sweaty and sometimes bloody.

The weekend was a family affair for Greenway, who shares three daughters with wife Jennifer. His youngest, Blakely, celebrated her first birthday, luring a tribe of South Dakotans from tiny Mount Vernon and nearby Mitchell to the Twin Cities. He secured 24 tickets for the game.

“For me to get out there and be able to score a touchdown in front of all of those family and friends, you can’t write the script any better,” Greenway said.

Tom Greenway has been a dairy farmer his entire life but is slowing down. He is due for double knee-replacement surgery.

“Obviously with my dad, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” said the grandson. “He’s mad he can’t go work on his tractors. He rebuilds these tractors. Just salt of the earth. A guy that you’re proud to have as a grandpa and you’re proud to wear the name on the back of the jersey. For me, it’s about carrying that legacy forward.”

Sunday, he got a 91-yard head start.