Missouri football team values Gregory's leadership

Friday, November 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST
Missouri offensive lineman Kurtis Gregory (78) stretches with his teammates during a football practice Tuesday.

COLUMBIA — Jaron Baston moves with purpose after the coin toss, imploring his teammates to match his own enthusiasm. Danario Alexander once again reaches over the head of a helpless cornerback on his way to the end zone. Sean Weatherspoon wrestles down another running back and continues on his way to leading the team in both memorable tackles and memorable quotes.

On and off the field, each Missouri football captain makes an impression in his own way.

Kurtis Gregory does things differently. Along with Gregory's consistent work at the line of scrimmage, the Tigers value the unique leadership style Missouri's most experienced offensive lineman brings to the team.

Weatherspoon, a senior linebacker, said Gregory's words mean a lot to his teammates.

"He's always the guy that steps up in the team meetings whenever captains are allowed to talk," Weatherspoon said. "Danario and Jaron, they kind of say something every now and then, but Kurtis is the guy that will step up all the time and say something to the guys, just to motivate them and help guys get ready."

That aspect of leadership didn't always come easily.

"I really haven't started talking that much in front of the team until the last three, four weeks," Gregory said. "Just really wasn't comfortable doing that, whereas now I feel more relaxed being up there, all that kind of stuff. I feel like what I'm saying means more."

When asked why that's true, Gregory laughed.

"Because I'm not nervous when I'm saying it," he said. "Saying it with more confidence just comes across better."

Even before addressing the team regularly, Gregory said he recognized the value of setting an example for younger players to follow. While in graduate school, he has been named a candidate for several national academic and extracurricular awards.

He also serves on Missouri's Student Athletic Advisor Committee (SAAC), which represents student-athletes and works with the athletic department.

"I joke around a lot, I can talk a lot, but when it comes to getting in front of people, I'm not the biggest when it comes to doing that," he said. "More of an example type of guy. They (teammates) know I'm going to get my job done."

Playing right tackle, sophomore Dan Hoch is positioned next to Gregory, a right guard, during games. Hoch recalled his first summer conditioning experience at Missouri.

"He (Gregory) was like, 'All right freshmen, let's go. Let's step it up, let's get going,'" Hoch said. "That just stood out for me. He's always been there for me and helped me out."

Gregory's contributions on the field mean a lot, too, Weatherspoon said.

"One thing that makes Kurtis a good leader is that he's a good player. Most good leaders are good players," he said. "Kurtis is doing a great job of just going out there and trying to lead the offensive line and let (quarterback) Blaine (Gabbert) know that he has his back. He's going to protect him."

Senior defensive end Brian Coulter said he likes Gregory's generally calm demeanor.

"He's not the type of person who's going to get up there and you're going to see veins coming out of his head and he's screaming and yelling at people," Coulter said. "He'll take more the friendly leadership approach. He'll approach you and kind of pull you off to the side instead of speaking to you out loud in front of everybody. Kind of tell you, 'Hey man, straighten up,' or 'Hey man, we need you in the game. Get your head up and make a play out there.'"

Gregory's support of his teammates is reflected by their support for him.

"Just knowing that teammates look up to me that much to be their captain, that's a pretty big deal," he said.

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Greg Mitchell November 20, 2009 | 3:42 p.m.

This is a great article, good job Craig.

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