From the Vikings to Vodka: Life After the NFL for Chad Greenway

By Ben Frotscher
When former Hawkeye great Chad Greenway retired from the NFL in 2017, his focus was on being a parent. Then a former Iowa teammate connected him with a new business venture in the Twin Cities.
Chad Greenway Chad Greenway

When Chad Greenway (05BA) announced his retirement from the NFL in 2017, he wasn't sure what was next. He had just finished a successful 11-year career with the Minnesota Vikings, where he earned two Pro Bowl selections and helped the Vikings to three NFC North titles.

"We had just had our fourth kid," says Greenway. "I just really wanted to focus on being a dad."

But when former Hawkeye football teammate Sean Considine (04BBA) connected Greenway with a group of investors in the Twin Cities who were starting a vodka company, it proved to be too good to pass up.

"The brand's concept was Gray Duck because of Minnesota's fondness for the kids game Duck, Duck, Gray Duck—rather than Duck, Duck, Goose," says Greenway. "It's a very Minnesota-specific thing; my kids play it. The concept around the company really was unique, but what appealed to me was that they wanted to be community based and give back. While it's a for-profit business, they also wanted to do things the right way. That was really important to me—with the work I've done in the community."

That's why Greenway decided to join the ownership group of Gray Duck in 2018, where he handles marketing, public relations, and community events. He's proud to be the public face of a company that keeps everything local—whether it's buying its corn from a co-op in west central Minnesota or raising money for organizations such as the Masonic Children's Hospital at the University of Minnesota or Toys for Tots.

Gray Duck has grown immensely since its inception, doubling sales last year and launching a new seltzer line. Through it all, Greenway has used his experiences—whether it be on the farm in South Dakota, at the University of Iowa, or with the Minnesota Vikings—to learn and grow.

"What I lean most into from my life is forming relationships and relationship building," says Greenway. "And that's been important in the business world—building relationships with your vendors, partners, or the people you meet when you're signing a bottle."

It's also been important for Greenway and his wife, Jennifer Capista Greenway (05BBA), a former UI women's track star, to give back. The couple started Chad Greenway's Lead the Way Foundation in 2008, which provides daily support and life-changing experiences to seriously ill and physically challenged children throughout the Midwest. In 2018, through the foundation's Chad's Locker program, they donated a mobile entertainment cabinet packed with iPads, laptops, movies, and video games intended to lift the spirits of patients and their families at UI Stead Family Children's Hospital.

The Greenways have also given back to Hawkeye athletics through the Greenway Family Athletics Excellence Fund, which provides yearly support to a Hawkeye athletic program or initiative of their choosing. For Greenway, his time at Iowa was incredibly successful—two All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors and two co-Big Ten Conference titles—and he's proud to help other Hawkeyes find success.

"I met so many people at Iowa who grew up differently than me and had different opinions and viewpoints," says Greenway. "It was a great place to learn and grow. I'm proud to be part of the Iowa program forever, and the memories I made are those I'll never forget."

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