New UH defensive line coach Brian Early leaves a mark on the people he comes into contact with. Just ask Dre Greenlaw – a man who’s heading to the NFL combine, in some part, thanks to Early.
When Greenlaw was 14, Brian and his wife Nanci invited Dre to live with them. The Early family provided Greenlaw with something he’d never had: a stable family life.
Brian, the middle son of Alvy Early, had grown up in Monticello, Arkansas. Alvy coached women’s basketball and softball for 38 years at Arkansas-Monticello (he was AD for a while, too). Brian understood the importance of family and structure and was in a position to offer that same stability to Dre.
Greenlaw had been a ward of the state for nearly half his life when he met the Early family. Brian, the defensive coordinator at Fayetteville HS, became Greenlaw’s mentor and friend during his freshman year. When the boys’ home Dre lived at announced they were closing, the Early family asked Greenlaw to move in just two days before Christmas in 2011.
With his new family behind him, Greenlaw excelled at Fayetteville High School and in life.
“To be honest, when I was in my group home, I was the only guy to really make it out,” Greenlaw said. “And it all started when I was in 9th grade.”
Early also excelled. After being part of a staff that won two state titles (and had another appearance in the title game) at Fayetteville, he was named a quality control coach at Arkansas in 2013. When Blake Anderson took the head job at Arkansas State after that season, he asked Early to be on his staff.
Early’s first move as a Red Wolves coach was to offer Greenlaw his first scholarship. The talented linebacker eventually received offers from Oklahoma State, Wazzu, and others, but an offer from the Razorbacks midway through his senior year changed everything.
Playing for the Hogs was Dre’s dream. Greenlaw signed with Arkansas in February 2015 and started 38 games over four seasons. Meanwhile, Brian was living out his dream across the state: coaching college football while becoming a fan-favorite at Arkansas State.
Just before Dre’s senior season, another dream for the two men came to pass: Greenlaw’s adoption by the Earlys became official.
“Even though it wasn’t legal until July, he’s always been my son,” Brian Early told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “He’s felt the same way. We’re mom and dad to him.”
Greenlaw gives the Early family a lot of credit for changing his life. Here he is at SEC Media Days in 2018, talking about the relationship with his family:
As the Early family starts their move to Houston, Dre is in Dallas preparing for the combine. He’s also keeping tabs on his half-brother: Jacolby Criswell is a dual-threat QB from Morrilton, Arkansas, with offers from Mississippi State, Arkansas, Georgia, Colorado, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, and more. He’s sure to add a Houston offer soon.
Greenlaw’s priority right now is the NFL draft, but once his football career ends, he plans to coach and work with kids in the foster system. He wants to repay the blessings he received that started when Brian Early took an interest in him.