Second-and-6. The Florida Gators were defending a 20-point lead over Florida State with 2:50 before halftime. Jonathan Greenard lined up in a two-point stance opposite of the Seminoles’ left tackle, Abdul Bello. After a slight hesitation, the senior edge rusher dipped his left shoulder to avoid the block and took his 6-foot-3, 263-pound frame and obliterated the quarterback, causing him to fumble.
“[The] Florida State sack will always be one that I definitely remember,” said Greenard. “That was probably one of the hardest hits I ever did on somebody and got away with it.”
There are also plenty of other plays that stand out. Like his 80-yard fumble return touchdown against Vanderbilt.
“I ain’t touch the end zone since high school, so to get that chance was really good,” Greenard said.
Although the graduate transfer only played one season at Florida, that is all he needed to leave his mark on the program. He led the SEC in 2019 with 10 sacks, which left him just one-half sack outside the top 10 in a single season for the Gators. He also added 15.5 tackles for loss, 52 tackles and 48 total quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
Greenard is a disruptive pass rusher and will be a highly coveted prospect in this year’s draft. In Indianapolis, he told reporters he had an informal meeting with the Chicago Bears and also met with them in Mobile, Alabama at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
The Bears need a pass rusher to complement their superstar Khalil Mack. If Greenard is on the board when the Bears are on the clock with their 43rd or 50th pick, general manager Ryan Pace needs to conjure up that conviction and add him to the Bears’ roster.
But before Greenard was wreaking havoc for a Gators defense that led the SEC in sacks with 46 and finished fifth in the country overall, he was also a standout at Louisville. As a sophomore in 2017, he led the Cardinals with 15.5 tackles for loss and was tied for the team lead with seven sacks.
Everything was set for Greenard to have an impactful junior year, but a season-ending wrist injury in the opener in 2018 changed that. However, Greenard still found some positives in a lost season.
“That [injury] kind of taught me a lot about how I need to value the game as far as practices, being in the locker room, workouts and things like that,” Greenard said. “So, for me to be able to get a chance to play this game again and miss out out on those things it makes you cherish the moments that you have.”
After Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino was fired, Greenard decided he wanted to reunite with his old defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who coached the Cardinals’ defense from 2014-2016. So he doubled up on class courses to avoid sitting out a year at Florida.
With the Gators in need of pass rushers, since junior Jachai Polite entered the NFL draft and senior CeCe Jefferson left after 2018, Greenard and fellow senior Jabari Zungia took full advantage of the opportunity.
“We kind of knew coming into the season we wanted to basically finish our last year at the top,” Greenard said. “With us on the field, I felt like we were the best tandem in the country and there is no doubt about it.”
Zuniga’s senior season was unfortunately plagued with injuries, which limited him to only six games. But when he and Greenard were on the field, Zuniga said they would have a competition with each other to see who would get to the quarterback first.
“That is my guy,” Zuniga said. “He is one of those guys that is a dog on the field. It is always good to play with somebody like that.”
Someone who can also attest to that is projected first-round draft pick and fellow teammate cornerback C.J. Henderson. He was a first-team All-SEC selection last season and had a team-high 11 pass breakups.
“It’s real fun,” Henderson said about playing with Greenard. “I really loved his mindset coming in[to Florida]. He is a great guy, great person on and off the field. He works extremely hard.”
Henderson also mentioned that Greenard made his job a lot easier because quarterbacks had to throw the ball a little quicker than they would have liked. A player with Greenard’s skill set helps an entire defense and a Bears secondary that only accounted for seven interceptions last season could use a guy that can get after the quarterback.
Opposing players that were on the other end of Greenard’s violent bull-rush or — his personal favorite — the spin move, knew each snap was going to be a dog fight.
Kentucky guard and 2020 NFL prospect Logan Stenberg highlighted that Greenard was the toughest player he had to block this past season.
“He is a good player,” Stenberg said. “He is a nasty, tough guy and he wanted to be in the trenches. He wasn’t a pretty guy, so he stood out.”
For the most part, Greenard has been a standout in whatever he has done. However, coming into Indianapolis, he was well aware that some people were doubting his athletic ability. Before Greenard won the 5-A Region Defensive Player of the Year at Hiram High School, he played several positions on offense, so he wanted to use his opportunity at the NFL scouting combine to prove one thing.
“That I’m an athlete,” Greenard said. “I’m kind of getting tired of not [being labeled] an athlete. I played receiver and running back pretty much all of my life … so I’m just here to showcase that and prove them wrong.”
And when Greenard got his chance to compete in the combine drills, he didn’t disappoint. He posted the second-fastest three-cone drill with 7.13 seconds and the third-fastest 20-yard shuffle with 4.34 seconds for a defensive linemen, which are arguably two of the most important drills when evaluating pass rushers.
Greenard believes what makes him stand out from some of the other edge prospects is his versatility and knowledge of the game. He has played as an off-the-ball linebacker and lined up in a two-point stance and with his hand in the dirt as a true defensive end.
He is everything the Bears could possibly want in an edge rusher and exactly what they need to resurrect the pass rush.
“I like to work,” Greenard said. “If you watch me, I’m always going to compete at the highest level. I hate to lose. So, I’m always playing like it’s my last time being on the field.”
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