Linebacker Dre Greenlaw overcame a lot of adversity to settle into his role as an integral defensive player with the 49ers last season.
Greenlaw faced tremendous odds off the field, as his youth primarily was spent in foster care. There were plenty of rough times on the field during his four-year career at Arkansas, too.
The team went 6-18 in Greenlaw’s final two seasons of college. In the first season without Greenlaw, the Razorbacks went 2-10 for the second consecutive year in 2019.
Arkansas prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week had to answer questions about the team’s lack of success.
"I think the last two seasons we had going 4-20 reflected on a lot of our character,” Arkansas linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris said. “It showed that we stuck through hard situations and we had to overcome a lot of adversity that we had to overcome.
“We had to step up as leaders as a team. We had to keep leading the way. I feel like we showed that a lot the past two seasons, and these coaches know that. We just keep doing what we're doing and executing our plans to go out there Saturday and show that we can play at this next level."
Greenlaw faced many of the same questions a year ago, and NFL.com rated him as a seventh-round pick or priority free agent before the draft. The 49ers selected Greenlaw in the fifth round with the No. 148 overall draft pick.
Greenlaw started 11 games for the 49ers. He took over at weakside linebacker when Kwon Alexander missed the second half of the season due to a torn pectoral. Greenlaw made the defensive play of the season when he stopped Seattle tight end Jacob Hollister just shy of the goal line in the closing seconds to preserve the 49ers’ crucial Week 17 victory.
"He's definitely (an inspiration) when you watch him you want to have that type of rookie year,” Arkansas defensive lineman McTelvin Agim said.
Greenlaw remained in the starting lineup for the 49ers three postseason games, including Super Bowl LIV, when Alexander returned to the active roster. He is a key component of the 49ers' future. Harris and Agim said they have leaned on Greenlaw during the draft process to gain insight from a friend who went through it just one year ago.
Said Agim, “He says to be yourself. ‘Wherever you go, just try to focus on making the team and taking it one day at a time, honestly.’"