It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say Jonathan Greenard waited his whole life for Saturday.
No, the Hiram, Georgia, native hasn’t craved a glorified scrimmage for most of his days — Greenard simply grew up a Gator.
“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,” the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Greenard said. “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.”
Greenard’s revelation may come as a surprise for many. Expected to play a sizable role at Louisville in 2018, Greenard suffered a season-ending injury to his wrist during the Cardinals’ first defensive series of the season. A player many looked to, to the point he was named a team captain prior to last season, had played his final snaps in Louisville. After the dismissal of coach Bobby Petrino, Greenard began looking for his next, and final, destination.
Many believed Greenard had transferred to UF based on the return of Todd Grantham’s 3-4 system, which Greenard had run while at Louisville.
As he tells it, it wasn’t one factor: the combination of positive signs simply seemed like a direction from a higher power.
“It’s honestly just, God works in mysterious ways, it all just plays together. Thankfully (Grantham) was here and that way I didn’t have to learn a new defense,” Greenard said. “Now I’m just glad to be playing the game again, (I) got a second chance and I couldn’t pass it up.”
While he’s simply elated to be back competing, even more so on the same field where he fell in love with Florida, Greenard doesn’t seem content with settling for contributing.
He wants to return to the leader he was at Louisville — a process he admits hasn’t, and won’t, happen overnight.
Upon arriving in Gainesville, Greenard admits his wrist needed more time to regain the fluidity of motion.
“When I first got down here, (the medical staff was) doing a lot of rehab and stuff, that’s when I kind of started to realize ‘OK, my hand’s starting to feel more confident, getting a lot stronger;, and I could start benching a lot more. Once I got the hand back straight, everything just started to fall into place.”
Greenard had waited months to return to the practice field; when he was finally cleared to participate, he admits his early love for the Gators didn’t include memories of the suffocating heat in the south come spring.
“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. The first couple of weeks was a little challenging, just getting adjusted to the heat and just running,” Greenard said. “Once I got acclimated to the heat — I know it’s going to 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.”
It Saturday’s performance was anything to go by, Greenard is back to the player he was before the injury at Louisville. After registering a sack and a tackle-for-loss in the Orange team’s 60-35 win, it would be remiss of Florida to not expect Greenard to make a sizable contribution in 2019.
However, while it’s clear he expects to compete for a starting role, Greenard, aware of UF’s potential depth at the position, said he’s prepared to earn the designation before Florida opens the season Aug. 24 in Orlando against Miami.
“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. Everybody’s here to push me to do better, everybody’s on the same path trying to be great,” Greenard said. “I feel like I’ve done everything I can. There’s guys under me that’s still working as hard as I am, because 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.”