Dennis Dodd

Gregory’s work ethic and community service habits were built on the farm

by Dennis Dodd October 05, 2009 in Football

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When Kurtis Gregory was notified he had been nominated for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, the first thing that came to mind was, well, Lowe’s.

“Do you know if a $1,000 gift card comes with that?” Missouri’s right guard asked. “I need to buy some tools.”

That’s Gregory, a son of the soil, country boy all the way and future baron of the family’s 1,500 acres near Blackburn, Mo.

“I just want to farm,” he said.

One day he will. For now, the Missouri senior might be sidetracked after this season. He has the chops to play in the NFL some day. The Tigers have a long history of offensive linemen, whether they play pro or not, coming from rural Missouri. Big, raw-boned kids who know as much about clearing a field as they do about clearing the way for a running back.

It’s the farming background that taught Gregory to give back. No one has to tell him about the crests and valleys of the business. At the mercy of weather and the economy, a farm’s profitability can change drastically from year to year.

“In farming, you always learn to work hard,” he said. “My grandparents are real giving people. My dad is the same way. It’s kind of passed down from the family.”

That’s part of the reason why Gregory had an idea during a recent Thanksgiving break. He approached coach Gary Pinkel and was given the OK to convince teammates to donate toward the local Adopt-A-Family program.

“Other teams [on campus] are donating and in the past football hasn’t really stepped up that much,” Gregory said.  “Being on the Student-Athlete Advisory Council people say, ‘I hear you football players don’t do this, don’t do that.’ I’m like, ‘Well, I’ll show you.’ “

The two-time Academic All-Big 12 selection likes challenges. He graduated in three years with an agriculture degree [3.48 GPA]. In his spare time – when exactly is THAT? – Gregory spends time reading in local elementary schools and has done TV spots for the United Way and the Central Missouri Food Bank.  The Adopt-A-Family initiative ended up raising $1,001.

“It’s something we need to keep doing year in, year out,” Gregory said. “What’s the big deal donating $10 or $20? We have 100 guys on the team. It doesn’t hurt us that much. I’m like, ‘Man, we really ought to do something in football.’ We’re the biggest team on the campus.”

When he isn’t following his son around the country watching his games, Roger Gregory is watching over 12,000 hogs and 125 cattle. The love of farm life was instilled long ago. The love of his fellow man came from a different place.

“Kurtis hasn’t missed too much Sunday school and church,” Roger said.
Call it the perfect son syndrome. During his career he has played for a Big 12 championship and protected what many consider Mizzou’s best-ever quarterback, Chase Daniel. The last two years he has anchored an offensive line that helped produce the first back-to-back 10-win seasons in school history.

Kurtis is currently in his second year of graduate work in agriculture systems management. Yes, he wants to farm but he also knows the NFL might come calling first.  Gregory’s draft projection after last season was somewhere between the fourth and seventh round.

That made it an easy decision to come back for one more season of football and good will.

“Whenever somebody asks, I say, ‘Oh sure I’ll do that,’ Gregory said. “Just knowing you helped someone is enough.”

That also means one more year of taking teammates home to bale hay or go on all-night fishing sorties.

“There’s just so much fun stuff you can do when you live out in the country,” Gregory said. “Bottom line, I’d just like to be on the farm.”