SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco rookie Dre Greenlaw enters the NFL with a little more fanfare than most fifth-round linebackers.
His role as a good Samaritan to save a high school classmate from a potential date rape encounter at a college fraternity party was publicized on social media by the woman’s father shortly after he was drafted by the 49ers last Saturday.
“My daughter went to a college party when she was freshman,” Gerry Daly said on Twitter. “She knew very few people at the party, and also didn’t have a ton of experience drinking. Someone slipped something into her drink when she wasn’t paying attention.
“Dre was also a freshman. And he knew my daughter from high school. And he did not know the guy who was all over her. And when that guy tried to steer my daughter out the front door, he stopped the guy and said ‘she’s not going anywhere.’”
Daly said he didn’t publicize the story earlier because he didn’t want anyone to criticize Greenlaw for being at a keg party when he was underage, but did so after Greenlaw was drafted, saying he will always owe Greenlaw for protecting his daughter.
Greenlaw said Daly’s daughter, Megan, called him a couple of days after her father tweeted his thanks and that jogged his memory of the details of the incident that happened his freshman year at Arkansas.
“I wasn’t doing it for attention,” Greenlaw said. “I did it because I did it. The whole four years went by and I didn’t think about it much. I think I saw her one time after that and she thanked me again. This is somebody’s daughter. I understand why someone would be so appreciative of it.”
Greenlaw is used to getting attention for off-field stories instead of the play that made him an NFL draft pick. Greenlaw was an orphan as a child and spent six years in the foster care system before moving in with the family of one of his high school assistant coaches, Brian Early.
Greenlaw became part of that family and was officially adopted last year, shortly after turning 21.
Greenlaw said it was frustrating at first to always be asked about his family situation instead of football but he knows it can provide inspiration to others from a similar background.
“I look back on it and it’s a story that not a lot of people went through and that they made it out of,” he said. “There’s a lot of kids in foster homes that may not have gotten the same opportunity. If they hear someone’s story and they see someone who has been through something similar to them, maybe they get the hope that they can do it, too.”
Now Greenlaw wants to begin the process of becoming known for his on-field play. He said he barely slept since getting drafted and arrived at the airport more than three hours early Thursday before flying to the Bay Area for rookie minicamp.
Greenlaw was drafted 148th overall by San Francisco, falling down draft boards in part because he ran a slow 40-yard dash on an injured hamstring before the draft.
But the Niners were impressed with his speed on game tape at Arkansas and Greenlaw wants to make the teams that passed him regret their decision.
“All my life I’ve been doubted,” he said. “Just going through what I’ve been through, a lot of people wouldn’t think I’d be where I’m standing. At a lot of points in my life, if I had a phone, I wouldn’t have had two numbers to put in it. I was an orphan and I went years without talking to my brothers and sisters. I have 12. I’m protective. That’s the hardest thing for me, being away from them.”