IOWA CITY, Iowa – No matter what happens on the football field Saturday night, Kinnick Stadium will be a teary-eyed scene of triumph.
Brett Greenwood’s presence will make sure of that.
His fighting spirit, his courage and his love for the Iowa Hawkeyes will all be celebrated as Greenwood serves as Iowa’s honorary captain for the Pittsburgh game.
The fact that Greenwood, a former Iowa defensive back, can even make the trip to Kinnick Stadium and serve as honorary captain is a victory in itself. It’s an example of what can happen when somebody refuses to back down from one of the worst kinds of adversity, and when somebody feels the love and support from so many admirers.
I couldn’t begin to imagine what these last four years have been like for Greenwood as he tries to recover from an anoxic brain injury that occurred on Sept. 9, 2011.
That was a day that stunned Hawkeye nation, a day that made little sense because how do you explain a young man who was in top physical condition being struck down so quickly and so seriously and now fighting for his life?
It later was revealed that the brain injury was the result of a heart arrhythmia. The injury occurred while Greenwood was working out at Pleasant Valley High School’s Spartan Stadium, where he had been a star player just a few years earlier.
Just days before the injury occurred, Greenwood was one of the final players cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s easy to forget that he was that good, a former walk-on who became a four-year starter at Iowa. Greenwood finished his career in 2010 as one of just three Hawkeyes to record at least 200 tackles and 12 interceptions during a career.
He and Tyler Sash formed one of the best one-two punches at safety that Iowa has ever had. Sash had a knack for making big plays at pivotal times, while Greenwood was a steadying influence, both sure and strong.
Sadly and tragically, Sash won’t see Saturday’s special moment. He won’t see his former teammate honored at midfield.
It’s still hard to comprehend and to accept that Sash is dead. He was only 27 when his body was found on Sept. 8 in his hometown of Oskaloosa.
Sash’s shocking death reminded us that life is cruel, fragile and unpredictable. We often take it for granted until tragedy knocks us back into reality.
But life is also about overcoming adversity, and that’s what Greenwood has been doing since his injury occurred, one courageous step at a time. The amount of support for Greenwood has been incredible, but not surprising because the human spirit makes anything possible, especially when it’s mixed together with Hawkeye pride and loyalty.
Greenwood is loved and respected by his former teammates and fans. It’s the kind of love that lasts forever and only strengthens through adversity.
His presence alone will deliver a powerful message to the Iowa players to never give up.
I just hope there is close to a sellout crowd on hand to honor Greenwood because he certainly deserves it.