Prep football: West Rowan’s Austin Greenwood goes out in style
By Mike London
GREENSBORO ó Austin Greenwood probably played his last football game Wednesday night during the West’s 6-0 loss in the East-West All-Star Game.
At 5-foot-10, 170 pounds ó Greenwood was listed an inch taller and five pounds heavier in last season’s West Rowan program ó he was one of the shrimps in a beefy contest played at Grimsley’s Jamieson Stadium.
“I kind of noticed right off I was one of the smaller guys,” he said with a chuckle.
Greenwood did better than OK. He started at safety, made three unassisted tackles and helped out on four more in a defensive struggle. His total of seven hits ranked second on the team.
Greenwood was as surprised as anyone he was the only player selected off West Rowan’s 3A state champions.
“I was just sitting in the gym in P.E. class, and Coach (Scott) Young is going through the mail,” Greenwood said. “He looks at me and calls me over and tells me I’m going to the East-West.”
An honor student, Greenwood received offers from Catawba, Lenoir-Rhyne and Mars Hill. He gave serious consideration to an academic scholarship from Mount Union, a Division III powerhouse in Ohio that has won 10 national championships in the last 17 years.
But he’s always wanted to go to a large school. His academic record earned several grants that will make East Carolina an affordable option, and he’ll head there soon. He plans a career in physical therapy.
“I always wanted to go away to college,” Greenwood said. “I haven’t talked to anyone there about walking on, but I might try it sometime. It’ll just depend on how much I miss football.”
Before he learned he was on the East-West roster, Greenwood figured he was going out on top. He made his sixth interception of the season when West Rowan hammered West Craven 35-7 in the 3A title game.
“I was thinking that was the highest note possible to finish my career on,” Greenwood said . “Then the East-West stuff happened. I knew I couldn’t go out there and be slack.”
Greenwood’s place in West history is secure.
As a junior, he was the backup tailback behind record-breaking K.P. Parks and carried 52 times for 302 yards. He got 145 of those in one playoff game against Parkwood. That was the game Parks had to sit out after making a flip into the end zone in a victory against Mooresville. Greenwood got the start.
“I was surprised to break 100 yards, for sure,” Greenwood said. “I guess our offensive line knew they’d have to step it up in a big way.”
He converted to free safety as a senior and arguably turned in the two most memorable plays of the championship season.
On Oct. 27, Lake Norman was on the verge of a huge upset that would’ve wrecked the Falcons’ perfect NPC season. It was Greenwood who came up to stop Eric Manser on third-and-goal at the 1.
Everyone got blocked except Greenwood, who shot through and made the stop for a 2-yard loss. Lake Norman settled for a field goal that forced overtime. West Rowan won the game in the second extra period.
“We knew they were gonna run the ball when I saw the big fullback (Dirqual Ellis) go in,” Greenwood said. “I cheated up and stopped it.”
In a third-round playoff game against Winston-Salem Carver, Greenwood made the play of the season, taking a faked punt 50 yards for a game-swinging touchdown.
The snap went directly to Greenwood, the up-back. He sprinted by defenders, hurdled defenders and shook off defenders before diving into the end zone.
Without that amazing individual effort on Nov. 28, West Rowan almost certainly loses and no Falcon gets fitted for a championship ring.
The Carver game was where West had a chance to stumble. Carver was more talented than South Point and West Craven, teams the Falcons physically manhandled in their final two outings.
“Looking back, the Carver game was the state championship game,” Greenwood said. “I’ve got the film. I watch it ever so often.”
And what does he see when he takes off with that faked punt on fourth-and-4 and five minutes to go?
“I get chills,” Greenwood said. “Just watching it, it’s sort of hard to believe it was me out there.”
Not too hard. He was a worthy all-star.