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Friday, September 17, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Bob Condotta
Scott Greenlaw talks fast these days.
Almost as fast as he ran in the mid-1990s when he worked his way from walk-on to starting cornerback at the University of Washington.
There's little time to waste when you're 32 years old and you own a mortgage and financial services company that employs roughly 330 people.
Greenlaw, the founder and CEO of Merit Financial in Kirkland, says, "It keeps me on my toes."
Kind of like backpedaling and sprinting alongside Pac-10 receivers while a UW defensive back from 1991 to 1995.
Greenlaw didn't have a scholarship offer from UW when he graduated from Issaquah High.
So he decided to enroll in the Air Force Academy Prep School. After six months, he decided that wasn't for him and came home to walk on at UW, arriving just in time to be a part of the 1991 national-title team.
He quickly won the notice of Don James with his scrappy and heady play, and was a special-teams regular in 1992. He was awarded a scholarship before the 1993 season, his sophomore year.
It was during that 1993 season that Greenlaw made the play that forever etched him in UW lore.
The Huskies, though, began to rally and cut the lead to six with 2:06 left in the game. Jim Lambright then called for an onside kick.
Greenlaw was lined up next to kicker Jason Crabbe.
"I was supposed to run down and take out as many Cal players as I could," Greenlaw said. "I ran into this guy who doesn't see me coming and I knocked him on his back. I go down with him, the ball took a crazy bounce, and it almost came right to me and I pounced on it. Everything just worked perfectly."
UW then drove for the winning TD to cap one of its most improbable comebacks.
"That was kind of the play that launched my career," Greenlaw said.
In 1994, he recorded another big play when he returned a fumble for a touchdown in a victory over UCLA. As a senior in 1995, he started every game at cornerback.
He graduated with a degree in political science but landed a job first in commercial real estate after enjoying an internship in that field during his college years. He did that for three years before "getting into the lending side of the business."
He worked for three companies in three years before deciding to branch out on his own in July 2001.
A recent Puget Sound Business Journal article detailed how he put up $225,000 to start Merit Financial and now has more than $1 billion in loans issued. Starting with 16 employees, the company recently bought a new $13.5 million, 59,000-square-foot headquarters in Kirkland.
"It's been a fun ride so far," he said. "I've just been fortunate to hire really good people."
Greenlaw also credits his Huskies days with putting him on the path toward success, saying he has structured his company like a football team: "Everybody has a job to do, and if they all do it right, the job gets done."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
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