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"He picked things up so fast that just from experience and maybe two more meets he'd have gotten 7,500," says Nuttycombe. "And with work he had the potential to be an 8,000-point decathlete, to be in the top 20 in the world."
Greenwood thought a lot about the decathlon. He decided that if football didn't pan out, he'd get back into it, try to pick up a sponsor somewhere and aim for the '84 Olympics. "But I don't know if I'd have enjoyed it," he says. "Talent won't do it for you. And all I can think about is that 1,500."
Football is Greenwood's natural sport, and in a recent Panthers-San Antonio Gunslingers game at the Silverdome it was easy to see why. On a sweep he takes on the Gunslingers' 260-pound right tackle and knocks him flat. There's no real need for it—somebody else makes the tackle—but the fact that it can be done at all is a statement. Shortly after that he breaks in from the left end of the line, dives and deflects a field-goal attempt. Nobody blocked him, but the football axiom says that even unobstructed, an outside rusher shouldn't be able to get to the ball before it's kicked.
Then in the fourth quarter Greenwood gets tackled for a big loss after trying to scramble with a high punt snap. In the stands Julie watches him closely as he jogs to the sidelines. She nods her head.
"David's mad now," she says.
And he looks it as he prowls the sidelines—jaw thrust forward, arms stiff, the old aggressiveness rising up. A few plays later he blitzes, gets knocked down, scrambles up and chases quarterback Rick Neuheisel 15 yards behind the line before smashing into him and forcing a fumble. The Panthers recover at their own nine and win 26-10.
NFL scouts are keeping a close watch on Greenwood. "The only question we had about him coming out of school was 'catch-up speed,' " says Gil Brandt, vice-president of personnel development for the Dallas Cowboys, voicing the concern of most NFL teams. "That's a big thing for us now. It means acceleration, breaking after the cut. They don't have the Kellen Winslows and Todd Christensens in that league, the big, fast tight ends that a strong safety has to cover over here. So it's hard to tell.
"But David's such a strong, tough, competitive kid. I don't know if he'd be a Pro Bowler in the NFL, but I think you could win a championship with him."
The Panthers already have and, with a 6-2 record, have a shot at another title. For most teams in most leagues, that's enough.