Greenberry molding into leader for Houston

Years before being tabbed one of the nation’s top prospects, becoming the first five-star recruit to sign with Houston and developing into the focal point of a Cougars offense that has accumulated more than 3,400 yards and 37 touchdowns, wide receiver Deontay Greenberry sat, eyes closed, at his home in Fresno, Calif., and envisioned his future.

“My sophomore year of high school, I started getting looks from colleges across the country and I began to understand that I could do something special,” Greenberry said. “It was pretty eye-opening when I realized that I could earn a scholarship for football. Sitting back and recognizing that was a real possibility truly changed my perspective.”

After setting California single-season state records with 2,165 receiving yards and 33 touchdowns while leading Washington Union High to a Division III State Championship as a senior, Greenberry, the No. 17 wide receiver in 2012’s ESPN 300, had his pick of practically every prominent football program.

“Without a doubt, Deontay was one of the more highly touted guys that we’ve targeted,” said Houston assistant coach Jamie Christian, who recruited Greenberry to UH. “Navigating that process can be tough on a young guy. But, he had a vision for what he wanted, and his mom and brothers did a lot in terms of helping him stay grounded and focused on his goals.”

On signing day, Greenberry stunned the nation by selecting Houston over USC, Alabama, Arizona State and his initial commitment, Notre Dame, among others.

“I felt very comfortable with Coach Christian, and UH just felt like home. I visited the week before signing day and it was everything that I wanted,” Greenberry said. “People told me that I was crazy for passing on some of the big-time teams. But, to me, being surrounded by good people was more important than the name of the school.”

As a true freshman in 2012, Greenberry made an immediate impact on the Cougars, collecting 47 receptions for 569 yards and three touchdowns, en route to earning Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors.

This season, Greenberry has served as a steadying force for a Cougars offense that has been in flux since concussions ended the career of starting quarterback David Piland in early October.

“Deontay has grown a lot in the short time that he’s been with us,” Christian said. “He is becoming a better player because he's learning to free up his teammates by blocking and running routes without the ball. He’s stepping up because he knows that the guys are depending on him.”

Through seven games this season, Greenberry has already eclipsed his rookie numbers by accounting for 842 yards and eight touchdowns, all while learning to become a leader.

“Deontay has always been a lead-by-example type of guy, but lately, he is starting to speak up and work into a more vocal role,” Christian said. “He has the chance to be as good as he wants to be, because he has the physical abilities, the football IQ and the desire to lead. Deontay is just beginning to tap into his true potential.”

It’s a work in progress, but one that was evident last week against Rutgers, when the shifty, 6-foot-3, 198-pound sophomore gashed the Scarlet Knights’ secondary for a career-best 168 yards and three touchdowns.

“The only thing that I’m focused on right now is working on the details,” Greenberry said. “Whether it’s throwing a block or catching a touchdown, my teammates look to me to make plays and contribute every week.

“In some ways, it’s kind of overwhelming to realize that I’m living out my dream right now,” Greenberry added. “Everything has happened really fast. To be honest, there are times that I’m afraid to blink because I’m scared I might miss something.”