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From foster care to football star: 49ers Dre Greenlaw’s powerful adoption story

by | Feb 12, 2024

By Nancy Flanders

The San Francisco 49ers went head-to-head with the Kansas City Chiefs last night in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII, and on the field playing for the 49ers will be linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Dre recently gave a shoutout to his parents, who took him in when he was a foster child in need of a home and later adopted him.

According to NBC Sports, Dre wants the world to know who have been his biggest supporters as he heads to his second Super Bowl in five seasons — his adopted parents, Brian and Nanci Early.

“I wouldn’t be here without them,” Dre told reporters in Las Vegas. “I probably wouldn’t have been able to play football without them, just being in a group home at the time, and them just stopping their lives and being able to come into it, it’s been huge.”

Dre first entered the foster care system at the age of eight. He was moved from home to home for seven years until, while in junior high school, he met Brian Early, the Fayetteville High School football coach. After he told Coach Early that he was living in a group home, Early called his wife and asked her to call the home to find out more information. The rest, as they say, is history.

At first, the Early family stepped in to mentor Dre — taking him to church, to football games, and shopping for clothes. Then when his foster mother at the time told Nanci that the group foster home would be closing, she asked the Earlys if they were willing and able to take Dre in.

“We probably would have been just fine mentoring him and picking him up on Sundays and feeling pretty good about ourselves and then when that foster home closed down, it was a real message to us from God that said, ‘What you’re doing is great. It’s not enough,’” explained Nanci. “Ya know, he needs a family. He needs a home.”

Brian, Nanci, and their two young daughters welcomed Dre into their home and family a few days before Christmas that year, and later, after his 21st birthday, Brian and Nanci legally adopted him. Their support, he said, has helped him get to where he is today.

In 2020, he said of his parents, “There’s really no words that can tell them how much that means to me. They believed in me before football… They were the only ones that really believed in me.”

Editor’s note. This appeared at Live Action News and reposted with permission.

Categories: Adoption