Through his first two years at Colorado, Woodson Greer didn't play as much as he wanted to.
It was his failure to live up to his potential in the classroom, however, that nearly forced him out of Boulder.
"When I got here, he was going to flunk out of school," said CU head football coach Mike MacIntyre, who was hired on Dec. 10. "If he had a bad semester (in the spring), he was done."
Less than a year later, Greer is excelling in the classroom and starting to make an impact on the field for the Buffaloes (3-4, 0-4 Pac-12), who will visit No. 17 UCLA (5-2, 2-2) on Saturday.
During the past two games, Greer has earned more playing time than ever before. A 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker from Carson, Calif., Greer set a career high with 56 plays on Oct. 19 against Charleston Southern, and then topped that with 62 plays last Saturday against Arizona. He averaged 27 plays per game during the first five weeks.
He's making the most of those plays, too. Greer has racked up 15 tackles in the past two games combined. For the season, he has 33 tackles, including six at or behind the line of scrimmage.
"It's always nice to play," Greer said. "This year, being a little bit older, a little bit more experienced, a little bit smarter, bigger and stronger than my previous two years, it's nice to see the field. That's what naturally happens when you get better."
Greer did play in 14 games during his first two seasons (nine on defense), mostly as a special teams player, but never worked his way into the regular rotation on defense. He had just 15 tackles in 109 total snaps from 2011-12.
It's no coincidence that his resurgence in the classroom and on the field has come at the same time.
"I would say it was myself holding me back," Greer said. "I didn't have the right mentality. I wasn't fully committed to my academics, so that held me back a little bit more. This year, I buckled down, I got more focused, I grew up a lot.
"I wasn't doing well at all (academically) and there was a possibility I couldn't continue at this university. When (MacIntyre) came in we did have to make a couple changes and just really pay attention to my academics so that I could pay attention to football."
Greer got more organized, began communicating with his academic advisor more often, and had CU coaches making him accountable at all times.
"I saw his mom and dad after we beat Colorado State," MacIntyre said. "They came up to me and said, 'Coach!' And I said 'Yes?' And they said, 'You just keep kicking his butt! Keep him in line!'
"I think it's exciting for them, too, to realize he turned the corner because they knew he was about to not make it."
Greer's parents aren't the only ones pleased with the turnaround. Although it's been hard work, Greer said he's in a better place mentally now that he's got his academics in line.
"I am very happy because school is a very important thing and you just can't rely on football," he said. "Knowing I'm going in a direction that will secure my education and will give me a future beyond football is making me very happy."
Of course, football is important to him, as well, and he's pleased to finally be getting an opportunity to shine.
Playing against Pac-12 opponents, many of which utilize the spread offense, CU benefits from having Greer on the field because of his combination of speed and toughness.
"Especially with these spread offenses that we're playing, speed is key," Greer said. "My ability to use my speed and my ability to run sideline to sideline and tackle is something that (the coaches) usually point out."
As Greer gets more playing time, he is hoping the experience will help him for the future. He's still got a full season to play after this one, so there's no telling how good he can get.
"Every week I'm trying to take the little things I learned from the previous week, against previous teams," he said. "A lot of teams run the same offense, so I'm trying to take little things and perfect this defense."
Greer said football "is the best sport in America" and that he enjoys every minute he gets to be on the field. He also knows he's only here because of what he's done in the classroom.
Although CU hasn't won as many games at it would have hoped to win, this has been, without question, Greer's best year in his development as a student and as a player.
"I'm having a great amount of fun," he said.