Greenard ready to make an impact for childhood favorite Gators
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Gators edge rusher Jonathan Greenard comes in from Louisville to fill a need at the Buck spot. With Jachai Polite and CeCe Jefferson both headed to the NFL, Greenard knew he was walking into a situation filled with high expectations.
"I think we all had the same mindset, me coming off starting over there, had a pretty successful season over there in Louisville, they wanted the same exact thing; I wanted better than what I did back in Louisville,” Greenard said. “Everybody's here to push me to do better, everybody's on the same path trying to be great."
Coming to Florida felt like a natural fit considering his most successful season at Louisville was under current Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. He is familiar with the system and fills a need.
However, that was not his only motivation to join the Gators. Greenard has always wanted to suit up in the orange and blue.
“I grew up a Gator fan really,” Greenard said. “It's been my first team I fell in love with, first with Chris Leak, but even before then so was just a straight Gator fan. Being a Gator fan in Georgia was frowned upon but I stayed true to my team so it's a blessing just to be here."
Now that he’s in Gainesville, Greenard is excited to feel comfortable again. Not only in the system, but also at a place he always wanted to be. He couldn’t let the opportunity pass him by.
"It's honestly just, God works in mysterious ways. It all just plays together. Thankfully he was here and that way I didn't have to learn a new defense. Now just glad to be playing the game again; got a second chance and I couldn't pass it up."
Through spring practice Greenard has come in and looked solid at the buck position. His size and strength stood out since day one, but coming into a new place and not having to learn a brand new system has been a blessing for the graduate senior.
“It's a combination of everything,” Greenard said of his position. “Me honestly I just like being on the field whether it's inside, outside, playing out, covering the flats and stuff like that. This system, I'm just glad to be back in this system, I don't have to learn another system my final year."
With spring ball now under wraps following Saturday’s Orange and Blue game Greenard is excited about what this team can do and how he can contribute, but the first few weeks of practice were a bit of a challenge.
"It's been great, just getting my feet back on, getting my legs back under me, being out a whole season and not being able to practice,” Greenard said. “The first couple weeks was a little challenging, just getting adjusted to the heat and just running and stuff like that.
“Once I got acclimated to the heat—I know it's gonna get hotter even in the summer—but just getting acclimated to that, the playbook, just getting my hands back moving, my feet back running in practice and stuff, it's been really good."
While Greenard is expected to be the starting Buck, Dan Mullen’s style is to never solidify a guy as a starter. Every rep is earned and you are always competing, and Greenard understands that and applies the same mindset to his game.
"I feel like I've done everything I can,” Greenard said of the starting buck spot. “There's guys under me that's still working as hard as I am cause they want the same thing I want but I'm definitely still going to continue to work like I'm still the backup or not get any playing time at all like I did my redshirt freshman year."
Growing up a Florida fan and seeing the history behind some of the pass rushers the Gators have had and then seeing what Polite was able to accomplish last season makes coming in and starting on the edge a daunting task, but Greenard understands the pressure and doesn’t let it affect him.
"There's always pressure when you're playing University of Florida defensive end so the thing is, with him, he just had a really great season; I watch film to see the things he did so I can make plays like he did as well,” Greenard said.
“Overall, there's always pressure but I just don't really think about it like that, just go out and play my game and do what I could do."
The Gators put together a great first season under Mullen last year and the defense under Grantham improved drastically from where it was the year before. However, they still feel they could have been better and that’s what Greenard is here to help with. He’s ready to contribute to his new team.
“It's been so much easier, guys coming in trying to learn the same system as well, just helping them out as well. Being with older guys that've been in the system as well, understanding why they run the plays and stuff like that,” Greenard said.
“We're all at the same mission, we all want the same thing. They had a season last year where they felt like they wanted more and I just came to help out and achieve that goal."