Football: Riverhead lineman signs with Villanova

Riverhead lineman Ethan Greenidge was joined by his parents Robin and Xann, as well as coach Leif Shay, on National Signing Day. Greenidge accepted a full scholarship from Villanova University. (Credit: Riverhead Schools)

It isn’t exactly Riverhead High School’s royal blue, but Villanova University has a little blue in its school colors. Before long, Villanova’s football team will have a big Riverheader among its ranks.

The biggest player on Riverhead’s football team made a big move on National Signing Day, putting pen to paper and accepting a full athletic scholarship from Villanova.

Ethan Greenidge, wearing a black Villanova pullover, sat at a table between his parents, Robin and Xann, in the Riverhead High School library on Wednesday morning and put his football future in the hands of the Wildcats, a Football Championship Subdivision team that went 11-3 last season. The scholarship has an annual value of $68,000, according to Riverhead coach Leif Shay.

“It’s definitely a relief,” the 6-foot-5, 325-pound Greenidge said after the signing ceremony. “I’m really excited about just going to college.”

Greenidge, an all-state honorable mention lineman and three-year varsity player, played offensive tackle and defensive tackle for the Blue Waves, who went 7-3 last year, losing to Half Hollow Hills West in a Suffolk County Division II semifinal. He is known for having good footwork for a player of his size.

“He was phenomenal for us, especially on the defensive side,” Shay said. “That’s where he really shined.”

Greenidge said he had also considered New Hampshire and Stony Brook, but picked Villanova because of its educational offerings. When he visited the campus just outside of Philadelphia, he liked what he saw.

Villanova had once dropped football, but Andy Talley has been coaching the team since football was reinstated at the school in 1985. He guided the Wildcats to their first NCAA Division II championship in 2009.

The most well-known football players to come out of Villanova may be Howie Long, the former Oakland Raiders lineman and current NFL analyst for Fox Sports, and Brian Westbrook, who starred as a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles.

“They’re very well known for getting people to the NFL, but I’m not really worried about that,” Greenidge said. “I just want to get through the college process first.”

Greenidge, 17, really caught Shay’s attention when he went through a growth spurt as a sophomore, shooting up from 5-10 to 6-5. “That’s when we kind of knew that we had something special,” said Shay.

Robin Greenidge said his son “kept getting bigger and bigger.”

Described as a humble, gentle giant, Greenidge brings fire to a game. Shay said Greenidge, who is expected to play on the offensive line, will probably red shirt his freshman year and put in a full year in the weight room to improve his upper-body strength. Records in the Riverhead weight room show Greenidge having lifted 250 pounds in a power clean.

Greenidge said a lot of hard work went into his preparation for college football, along with some help from Shay.

“He had a huge role,” Greenidge said. “He kept pushing me every day because freshman year, I wasn’t nearly even high school ready. I struggled sometimes, but he really pushed me, talked to me a lot, and got me to do a lot of workouts in the summer. He really helped me evolve as a player.”

Xann Greenidge sad she is proud of what her son has accomplished. “We feel blessed that he has this opportunity and we hope that he rises up and makes the town proud,” she said.

Shay said the path that lies before Greenidge is “great for him, it’s great for his family and it’s great for his future.” The coached added, “He knows he’s going where he wants to go.”

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