Chad Greenway credits his farm upbringing with instilling a work ethic that got him to the NFL: Before the former Iowa Hawkeyes and Minnesota Vikings linebacker was selected in the first round of the NFL draft in 2006, Greenway grew up on a 2,000-acre crop farm and cow-calf operation in Mount Vernon, South Dakota.

After 11 years with the Vikings, he retired from football in 2017 and returned to his roots, swapping his Sundays on the field for Sundays in the field at his hobby farm near his home in Wayzata, where he lives on the lake with his wife, Jennifer, and their four daughters, Maddyn, Beckett, Blakely and Carsyn.

Q: How did growing up on a farm prepare you for your football career? 
A: We woke up at 5:30 a.m. to load pigs, move cows or do whatever needed to be done. And in the summers, we worked until the sun went down. That work ethic created an advantage for me moving forward in my career. My whole life has been being a part of teams and learning how to live in the world and be selfless.

Q: What are some of your favorite memories of playing with the Vikings? 
A: Playing in an NFC Championship game and making a couple Pro Bowls in Hawaii was incredible. Playing my whole career with the Vikings was really important to show that loyalty to an organization and be part of something.  

Q: How do you stay connected to your farming roots?
A: We try to get back to my family’s farm in South Dakota as much as the schedule allows, but I now also have my own 70-acre hobby farm in Delano that I maintain myself. It’s our home away from home. I have some livestock and I get out there almost daily to do chores and build things.

Q: Your spirits company, Gray Duck, was inspired by the now-iconic Vikings endzone celebration—a game of “duck, duck, gray duck”—and your vodka is made with Minnesota corn. Were you inspired to combine your passions for both farming and football?
A: When we started the company five years ago, we were really trying to learn the industry. Just like my farming background, the company was built on relationships and hard work. It’s all homegrown: We have the corn shipped from family-owned farms in Benson to our facility in Burnsville, where we produce and bottle it. And some of our other products are made at the Surly facility in downtown Minneapolis.      

Q: What values that you learned from growing up on a farm are you teaching your daughters? 
A: The idea of hard work and being a part of something bigger than yourself are such valuable lessons. It’s great to be able to raise and take care of animals and have empathy toward them.

Chad’s Favorites
Summer Cocktail: Jalapeño Moscow mule with ginger beer and Gray Duck vodka
State Fair Food: Ice cream from the Dairy Building
Summer Activity: Boating and watching the kids wake surf