Randy Gregory didn’t start playing football until he was in high school.
By Randy York
When Bo Pelini declared Wednesday that the Huskers better get their rears ready to play because “we’re going to fire our guns next year,” that was sweet, reinforcing music to Randy Gregory, even if it was something he’d already heard. “I’ll be in Lincoln for fall camp, and I have my goals set pretty high,” he said. “I want to maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout my first semester, and I want to be a starter by the first game.”
There is no fear of failure in this 6-foot-6, 230-pound defensive end who spurned dozens of scholarship offers, including three in the Big Ten (Purdue, Iowa, Illinois), three in the Pac-12 (UCLA, Washington and Oregon State), three in the Big 12 (Oklahoma, West Virginia and Iowa State) and two in the SEC (Arkansas, Missouri).
In Gregory’s mind, those were all good schools, but Nebraska rated his “great” tag because it offered things the Indiana native didn’t see anywhere else. “The biggest reason I became a Husker,” Gregory said, “was because there’s so much support from the coaches, staff and fans. I felt like if I did exactly what was asked of me, then there was no chance of failing while being there.”
Gregory is a transfer from Arizona Western Community College in Yuma, where he was ranked as the nation’s top junior college defensive end prospect. He can envision himself standing up and being able to provide pass coverage as well as premier pass-rushing capability like he showed in 2011 when 21 of his 81 tackles at Arizona Western resulted in losses. He also had nine sacks on a team that reached the national junior college championship game before being forced to redshirt his second year at Arizona Western after breaking his fibula in the 2012 season-opener.
Redshirt Gives Gregory Three More Years
That means Gregory has three years of eligibility left, and he plans to make the most of a football future that supplants the multiple options he once considered to play Division I basketball.
“Randy has a lot of things you can’t coach, and that made him one of the most sought after defensive players in the country,” said Rick Kaczenski, Nebraska’s defensive line coach and Gregory’s primary recruiting contact. “Randy has all the intangibles – the speed, the agility, the ability and just a knack for the game. He didn’t really play football until he got in high school. He’s a really, really good football player, but I think his best football is ahead of him because he’s just scratched the surface of what he can be. He has all the tools to be a great one, that’s for sure.”
Nebraska coaches have been candid about getting more dynamic athletes with speed and quickness in the defensive line. Because he’s already played a year at a high-level junior college, Gregory fits the speed profile to a T. Nebraska coaches are equally excited about the other five 2013 defensive line recruits who will get the same chance to start as Gregory – Maliek Collins, Kevin Maurice, Dimarya Mixon, A.J. Natter and Ernest Suttles.
Gregory welcomes the competition with open arms. “It’s not where you start fall camp. It’s where you finish,” he said. “That’s something my dad has always told me, and I really try to think of life that way whenever I start to doubt myself.”
At Home, Dad is an Inspiring Role Model
Ken Gregory has been an inspiring role model for a son who is now officially a Cornhusker. “He’s the model of what a man truly is,” Gregory said of his dad. “He works hard every day, supports his family (including wife Mary) and supports every decision I make. He’s the person who put a ball in my hands at an early age.”
Kaczenski has met Gregory’s parents and knows why he’s so well rounded. “He’s a real sharp kid because he’s an extension of his family, Kaczenski said. “His dad graduated from Northwestern, and we recruited Randy when I was at Iowa. He committed to Purdue and then decided to go to one of the best junior colleges in the country instead. I kind of lost track of him, but was glad we found him again. He was one of the top three junior college recruits in the country. He fits our profile well, academically and athletically.”
It’s been a long journey from an Indianapolis suburb to Lincoln, but once Gregory joined the Huskers in his only Tunnel Walk experience to date, he’s been hooked. “Having the chance to be in a sold-out Memorial Stadium and beating Michigan is something I’ll never forget,” he said. My official visit that weekend was amazing. Nebraska fans love the game just as much as the players and coaches do. They support you through your ups and downs, and in my opinion, we have the best fans in the nation.”
For Gregory, Always ‘We’ and Rarely ‘Me’
“We” is already a big part of Randy Gregory’s vocabulary, and he also uses the collective noun to describe Nebraska’s overall excellence in academics. “We’re one place that puts academics just as high as football, if not higher,” he said. “Everyone at Nebraska expects you to be the best you can be – on and off the field. When you visit, you can tell that we truly believe in being a student before an athlete.”
Gregory puts winning before losing, too, and he knows how to keep it in perspective. “My dad has been a longtime San Francisco 49ers fan, and so am I,” he said. “They lost the Super Bowl last Sunday, but they’re still my favorite team and Aldon Smith (the 49ers’ outside linebacker) is still my favorite NFL player.”
In one of his heroes, Gregory sees a Nebraska-like mindset of constant improvement. “I’m always striving to become a better person and not get stuck on where I am now or where I was yesterday,” he said. “I try to focus on the future and see where I can be.”
Crouch a Husker Legend He’d Like to Meet
That’s why Gregory holds Eric Crouch in such high regard. “I feel like he was so dynamic during his time at Nebraska,” he said. “He’s a Husker legend I’d love to meet sometime.”
Gregory sees himself fitting into Nebraska’s culture. “Coach Kaz recruited me, and he was real easy to get along with. That helped us build a good relationship,” Gregory said. “I like the fact that he’s straightforward. I felt like I could trust him throughout the process.”
Pelini is also “a straightforward, hard-nosed guy,” Gregory said. “He’s a very passionate coach who will expect nothing but your best effort towards the team. I see Coach JP (John Papuchis) having the same kind of influence.”
This much is certain. Pelini, Papuchis and Coach Kaz are counting on players like Gregory to step up and be counted when the guns begin firing next fall.
Emotional Ammunition to Be Successful
Gregory believes Nebraska is ready and aiming for dramatic defensive improvement, and he’s every bit as fired up about that as his coaches.
“Our strength program is top-notch – whether it’s the nutrition part of it or the weightlifting aspect to it,” Gregory said. “There’s no other program I’ve seen that can compare to what we have at Nebraska. I can’t wait to have that strength complex and that training table become a daily part of my life. Nebraska has everything we all need to get better. That’s why I say that if I do exactly what they ask of me, there should be no chance of failure.”
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