NOAH TRISTER,AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Chris Greenwood figures the biggest crowd he played in front of for Albion College last season was about a thousand fans.
“The team that we played against was undefeated at the time, and it was basically for the conference championship,” he said. “That crowd got pretty big.”
This year, the concept of a big crowd could change dramatically for Greenwood. Drafted in the fifth round last month by the Detroit Lions, he has been at rookie minicamp, trying to make the adjustment from Division III to the NFL. The 6-foot-1, 193-pound defensive back did not look out of place at all on the field during the three-day session.
“Chris is a very talented guy and when you put him out there I don’t know what a small-school guy is once they get out there,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “He fit right in with everybody else and he’s trying to learn like everybody else. His head’s swimming just like a big-school player, but athletically he really belongs and it’ll be fun to watch him progress.”
Greenwood is from the Detroit area — he recalls going to see the Lions play at Ford Field a few years back. He went to Martin Luther King High School, then began an unusual journey toward a pro career. Greenwood went to Northwood University in Midland and then to Eastern Michigan before ending up at Albion, a 1,500-student private school in south-central Michigan, about halfway between Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo.
He was a three-time all-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association first team selection, and he played in January’s East-West Shrine game in Florida. That was a valuable chance to test himself against stiff competition.
“It’s a big change from Division III to Division I, so going against those guys kind of helped me adjust,” Greenwood said.
Detroit drafted Greenwood 148th overall — after moving up by sending a pair of draft picks to Oakland. The Lions struggled on defense toward the end of last season, and after using their first two picks on an offensive lineman and a wide receiver, they took three defensive backs and three linebackers with their final six selections.
Greenwood says he weighed about 160 pounds when he came out of high school. Now, he’s the biggest of the defensive backs Detroit took in the draft.
“It takes about two seconds to know that he fits physically,” Schwartz said. “He’s got a lot to learn but all of these guys got a lot to learn whether they’ve come from Division III or junior college like we talked about before or Oklahoma. … All of them are in the same boat right now and Chris has done a really nice job. He’s athletic and he’s shown everything that we saw to draft him.”
Greenwood was the first MIAA player selected in the NFL draft since 1967, when New Orleans took Albion linebacker Barry Siler in the eighth round. The three Division III players taken in the draft between 2008-2011 — Pierre Garcon, Andy Studebaker and Cecil Shorts — are all still in the league.
Greenwood may have spent his college years playing in obscurity, but NFL talent can come from just about anywhere.
“We have guys who were first round draft picks, we have guys that are young veterans that have been in our offseason program that are all out there. The thing that doesn’t matter anymore is what school you went to, what round you were drafted in, what your signing bonus was, everything else,” Schwartz said. “All these guys have similar opportunity; all of them are here for a reason; all of them are talented enough to be here, and it’s what they make of it from this point.”
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