Florida’s Greenard to “face my fears” in return to Orlando
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida pass-rusher Jon Greenard twists his wrist and reveals a 3-inch scar on the back on his hand.
It’s a constant reminder of his last trip to Orlando.
Greenard’s 2018 season ended after nine plays inside Camping World Stadium, cut short on Louisville’s opening defensive series when he dislocated his right wrist and tore several ligaments in a 51-14 loss to Alabama in the opener.
Greenard had 12 bone suture anchors inserted into his hand — three still remain — and then spent several months in a cast and a few more in a brace. His rehab was tedious and tiring — and spanned two campuses. Greenard opted to leave Louisville after coach Bobby Petrino was fired in November, scrambled to complete his degree and ended up at Florida as a graduate transfer.
Now, he’s expected to start for the eighth-ranked Gators when they usher in the college football season against rival Miami on Saturday night. And in an unexpected coincidence, the 22-year-old Greenard will begin his senior year in the same spot his previous one ended: Orlando.
“It’s kind of a good thing. I can go face my fears,” Greenard said. “I am going to be a little apprehensive going into the game. But that’s anything. I have to understand that injuries happen and they could be anywhere. Now, going back, it’s going to be a challenge. But I’m going to all right, though. I’m going to be all right. I’m going to be OK.”
Florida could be the biggest beneficiary of Greenard’s move.
The 6-foot-3, 263-pound Georgia native notched 15 1/2 tackles for loss, including seven sacks, for the Cardinals in 2017. He ranked 32nd in the nation in TFLs and 47th in sacks. Not bad for a part-time starter.
He was named a team captain going into last season and was expected to build off his breakout performance. Then he landed awkwardly on his wrist after making a tackle.
“I just remember going in for the kill shot. Next thing you know, I’m out for the year,” he said. “I played the next play with the adrenaline rushing. As soon as I got down in my stance and put my hand down, I saw it was out of place.”
Greenard didn’t intended to leave Louisville at first, but the coaching change prompted him to start looking around. He chose Florida — a decision he called “a no-brainer” — because current Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham recruited him at Louisville and coached him for his first two years.
Greenard knew Grantham’s aggressive system, felt most comfortable playing the “buck” position and realized he would get a chance to start since the Gators lost two guys at the position. Jachai Polite left school early after notching 17 1/2 TFLs, including 11 sacks, and CeCe Jefferson graduated.
“He’s smart, he’s instinctive and he’s a good leader,” Grantham said. “Jon already knew what to expect from me and how I expect us to play in the system, so that transition’s been fairly easy.”
Grantham’s has a long list of success stories at the buck position, beginning with Justin Houston, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins at Georgia, continuing with Lorenzo Mauldin and Devonte Fields at Louisville, and then more recently with Gerri Green and Montez Sweat at Mississippi State. Throw in Polite and Grantham has helped develop two first-round NFL draft picks and four third-rounders since returning to college football in 2010.
Greenard could join the list next spring.
“I know there are a lot of big shoes to fill,” he said.
For now, though, he’s just concerned with leaving Camping World Stadium in one piece — and with a victory.
It will be his third game at the venue in four years, and he’s winless. LSU beat Greenard and Louisville 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl at the end of the 2016 season. That one was memorable because it marked Greenard’s first career start.
Last year’s lopsided loss still stings, solely because of the scar it left behind.
“It had a bad taste in my mouth,” Greenard said. “Now it’s giving me a chance to go back out there and redeem myself.”