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NFL rookies don’t often make waves for random acts of kindness at college parties, but new 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw is an exception.
Greenlaw, 21, made headlines after being taken by San Francisco in the NFL Draft last week when the father of a fellow student at the University of Arkansas thanked Greenlaw on Twitter for saving his daughter from a potentially harmful situation.
Greenlaw was a freshman in 2015 when he ran into a former high school classmate at a fraternity party.
“She knew very few people at the party, and also didn’t have a ton of experience drinking,” Meghan Daly’s father, Gerry, wrote in a series of Tweets.
“I kind of could tell something was off,” Greenlaw said when he was introduced to Bay Area reporters Friday, “but probably about two minutes later she was like, ‘I’m feeling kind of bad, like I feel like somebody might have put something in my drink.’ ”
Greenlaw, as a new member of the football team at Arkansas, might have been thrown out of the program had he gotten into a fight at the party. He was apprehensive about getting involved and protecting the girl because he was new to his surroundings.
That didn’t stop him from doing the right thing.
He saw Daly leave with someone at the party and didn’t feel right about it. The man was acting overly aggressive, and Greenlaw went to make sure she was OK. He wanted to make sure her friends knew where she was.
“I went from hanging with my friends and doing what I was doing to, ‘All right, let’s go find your friends,’ ” Greenlaw said.
Greenlaw caught up with Daly and pulled her away from the man. Roughly a half hour passed before Greenlaw found the phone number of the friend with whom Daly came to the party. Daly wound up going to a hospital and having her stomach pumped.
Doctors found that someone put Rohypnol, commonly called a roofie, in Daly’s drink.
Three-plus years later, Daly heard the news that Greenlaw had been drafted by San Francisco with the No. 148 pick and called to congratulate him, and thank him again for saving her that night.
“At the time, regardless of it was my friend or not, you have got to watch out when you’re going to frat places, and not saying that Arkansas is bad for it, but it happens,” Greenlaw said. “And I’m just thankful that I was there to help.”
Greenlaw comes from a trying background. He was officially adopted last summer, at 21, after spending six years bouncing from a group home to boys’ homes. He grew up an orphan and was adopted by Brian and Nancy Early, who brought him into their home when Greenlaw was 14.
He used football as his outlet for overcoming his unstable upbringing. He remains motivated by the fact he was the last player in his high school class at Fayetteville to be offered a college scholarship. But he was the first to earn a starting job in college. Greenlaw started at inside linebacker as a freshman and started 38 games over four years.
His upbringing, and now the story about saving Daly, has made Greenlaw the subject of uncomfortable story lines. He’d rather be known for what he does as a football player than growing up an orphan, which received plenty of press as a star of the Arkansas football team.
“It really was frustrating because I’d go about family and stuff,” he said. “... but then again, I look back on it and it’s a story that not a lot of people can say that’s what they went through and they made it out of.
“There’s a lot of kids in foster homes that may have not gotten the same opportunity. But if they just hear somebody else’s story, they see somebody that’s been through something that’s similar to them, maybe they get the idea or the hopes that they can do it, too. Which they can. It just takes a different mentality and a lot of perseverance. I’m grateful and thankful for what I’ve been through because it made me who I am today.”