The Dallas Cowboys considered Randy Gregory to be a top-10 talent in the recent NFL Draft, and might've taken him at No. 27 before opting for a "sure thing'' in cornerback Byron Jones. But at No. 60 in the second round? It was a no-brainer "risk'' ... if it was a risk at all.
Gregory slipped in the draft due to "behavioral concerns.'' At Nebraska, he smoked pot and missed meetings and dealt with what he calls "the same kind of anxiety that a lot of guys in my position have.''
The Cowboys didn't see many problems here; rather, they saw potential. And if they are right, the "anxiety'' surrounding Gregory is about to belong to opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks.
Randy Gregory weighs around 70lbs less than K Wiggins (Chargers OG #79), and he still put him on skates for his sack https://t.co/Xiij1YywLU— Dan Turner (@dtsturner) August 15, 2015
Gregory came up with a sack in Thursday’s preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers. He earned compliments from the coaching staff. Yet he dwelled on the chances missed during his 26 snaps during a postgame conversation in the locker room, and reiterated those concerns later while waiting for the Cowboys to pile onboard the bus caravan that would transport them back to Oxnard ... and while holding an entire cardboard pizza box in one hand while he used to devour the goods slice by slice.
"I’m my own biggest critic, so I’m never satisfied with my play," the former Nebraska start said. "I ran right by the quarterback one time. ... There was one time I had my arm on him and he got away. ... They don't come easy.''
But they will come, especially if Dallas uses Gregory in "spots to succeed'' -- for instance, as a designated pass-rusher (who showed a knack for that last year with 17 sacks for the Cornhuskers) while he continues to bulk up his slim body.
Gregory says he has played before at 258. Getting him in the 250's and keeping him there is an eventual goal and he's in that range now, especially after eating that entire pizza. Getting him to buy into the discipline side and the intellectual side might not be the challenge his critics think it will be; he's not a "wrong-side-of-the-tracks'' kid. He grew up in middle-class Fishers, Indiana, the son of a father who attended Northwestern and played football there and who has since made his mark in business, now as a regional director with CVS. Gregory has stated before that his errors are his own -- "I dug my own grave and I owned up to it,'' he has said about past mistakes -- and that the Cowboys' support has meant the world to him.
Support has come from inside the Cowboys family, featuring Michael Irvin, Charles Haley and position coach Leon Lett.
"I've been there,'' Lett told me. "I've been that guy, like Randy is. I think I can help him.''
Added Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said.“I think he’s a good person,” “He has great football character. … I believe in the young man.”
He is also off to a fine start, with a fine perspective on it to match.
"Coach (Rod) Marinelli preaches to me to 'throw your fastball,' meaning use my speed,'' Gregory said in review of his debut. "Overall I think I did a good job. ... If I was a betting man, I’d say yeah (there are more sacks to come). But obviously there’s a process with that. I’m going to enjoy that process. I’m going to work hard. They’re hard-earned.
And then they get rewarded. With a pizza.