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"Our whole family was athletic and competitive," says oldest brother Mike, 33, a foreman in a lumberyard. "But Dave also was a little bit of a show-off. When he was still in grade school he used to go to the high school track meets and match the winning jumps—wearing his street clothes. We older brothers didn't mess with him too much after a while, because he was a pretty rough character."
"He just hates to lose at anything," says Michigan quarterback Bobby Hebert, who hails from Cut Off, La. and is one of Greenwood's best friends on the team. "He may get mad if I say this, but what he reminds me of sometimes is a north Louisiana redneck."
Greenwood's aggressiveness in college earned him a reputation as a headhunter and cheap-shot artist, charges still occasionally leveled at him by opponents. The present Wisconsin track coach, Ed Nuttycombe, who had been an assistant to McClimon, saw Greenwood's recklessness as part of a larger discipline. The coach tells about the time Greenwood was in a decathlon and had one chance left to clear 13'6" in the vault. Greenwood charged down the runway with fire in his eyes, sailed over the bar, missed the cushion and landed flat on his back on the cement at the side of the pit. People thought he was dead. After a minute he stood up, spit out some blood and continued with the competition, ultimately clearing 14'6".
What makes the incident truly remarkable is that Greenwood knew as he planted the pole that he was going to miss the pit, and still went through with the jump.
"I didn't get my hands over my head, so I knew I was going off to the side," he says. "But I rejected the idea of quitting. I thought I could keep from landing on my head. I was fired up. I had to make it."
"I'm not sure he felt pain at all," says Nuttycombe. "And it would be hard to measure his courage."
It also would be hard to name a sport Greenwood couldn't excel in. He runs the 40 in 4.55; he golfs in the 70s; he punts for the Panthers, last year averaging 41.4 yards per attempt. Much of his ability traces to his legs. "They're just explosive," says Nuttycombe.
Indeed, when Greenwood won the Big Ten high jump crown by clearing seven feet on a windy, rainy day, he weighed 215 pounds. Moreover, he had just finished spring football and hadn't practiced jumping in weeks. When he cleared 7'2" indoors, he weighed between 210 and 215. Nuttycombe points out that he's one of the heaviest men ever to clear that height. Jürgen Hingsen, the 229-pound world-record holder in the decathlon who has also cleared 7'2", is the only heavier one that comes to mind.
Greenwood was a natural for the decathlon, but he only competed in it twice, once as a sophomore and once as a junior. He was hindered each time by a lack of practice in certain events, notably the 1,500, the 400, the shotput, discus and javelin. Still, in his first try, at a meet in Gainesville, Fla., he scored a commendable 6,466 points.
In his second attempt, at LSU in the spring of 1981, he was sailing along until he got to the javelin. "I reared back and threw it as hard as I could and nearly tore my arm off," says Greenwood. "And it didn't go anywhere. Technique is everything in the javelin, but I'd never practiced because javelins aren't allowed in the Big Ten. I was disgusted and I promised I wouldn't enter again until I knew what I was doing." Though he jogged through the 1,500, Greenwood finished with his school record.