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2020 NFL Draft: Jonathan Greenard inspired by former Gators QB

NFL.com's "Why I Play" series provides a thoughtful peek into the minds of the next generation of NFL players to better understand what drives them to make it in the league. Other prospects included in this series: TCU DT Ross Blacklock, Auburn DT Derrick Brown, TCU CB Jeff Gladney, USC OT Austin Jackson, Utah CB Jaylon Johnson, Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor and Michigan LB Josh Uche. Today's featured prospect is ...

2020 NFL Draft standing: Greenard is projected to be a middle-round pick in NFL.com draft analyst Chad Reuter's latest mock draft.

Prospect bio: Greenard began his collegiate career at Louisville, where he made one start as a redshirt freshman (in the Citrus Bowl against LSU) before leading the Cardinals in tackles for loss (15.5) and tying for the team lead in sacks (seven) in 13 games played (five starts) in 2017. Greenard was named a team captain in 2018 but suffered a season-ending right wrist injury in the opener. He decided to transfer from Louisville to Florida as a graduate student after Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino was fired. He was a first-team All-SEC selection for the Gators last season after leading the league with 15.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks among his 52 stops in 12 starts.

This interview, conducted via phone call on March 31, was condensed and edited for clarity.

How I started

My parents introduced me to a rec football league when I was 4 years old. I knew I wanted to play football at a young age because I always saw my brother Mack Greenard III, who is three years older than me, playing in the front yard with neighbors and friends. So when I got the chance to play some organized ball, I was all in.

I also played basketball from an early age. I was probably about 7 or 8 when I joined a city league, and it gave me something to do. But football was always the sport I knew I wanted to pursue after high school.

My motivation

My father, Mack Greenard Jr., led me to play football. My brother and I would go to games with our dad and talk about sports. He was always my main motivation and gave me the spark to play the game. When he passed away in 2014, my mom, Carmen Greenard-Varnum, carried the light for me and my siblings. She is our lead supporter. She made sure our mental health was fine and that football came second. She remarried in 2016 to Washington Varnum Jr., and he's really stepped up. He's been there and taught me more about the game.

Seeing what my parents did for me when I was growing up, as far as taking me to and from practice, made a huge impact on me. They sacrificed so much, driving long hours and putting things on hold, just to put me in the best situation possible and put a smile on my face. Now that's what I'm trying to do for my mom, to work hard and show her that her sacrifices didn't go to waste.

Who inspires me

My mother is one but another is my friend Ryan Tomberlin. I met Ryan, who is autistic, my junior year of high school in 2013 because he served as a manager for the football team. I gelled with him right away, talking to him at practice and school, eating lunch with him. You know, high school can be hard for someone like Ryan but I -- and my teammates -- welcomed him with open arms. We're still friends to this day, and I still keep in touch with his family. Ryan taught me that not everyone has the chance to have the same experience, so I promised myself that I would never take this game for granted. He inspires me to keep giving the game my all.

A positive influence on me

Feleipe Franks has affected me in a positive way, but he might not know it. He had a horrific injury (dislocated ankle) last season as quarterback of the Florida Gators, and now he's at Arkansas. The way he fought through his injury while staying humble was admirable. Seeing his success story and how he's getting back on the field for a big year at Arkansas next season, and thinking about my wrist injury that sidelined me in 2018, it showed me that you can come back better and stronger if you don't let it break you.

Follow Brooke Cersosimo on Twitter @BCersosimo.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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