Bob Lutz

Gregory makes most of chance

KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ Oh, come on.

Bill Snyder, when asked about the play of his quarterback in Saturday's 24-23 Kansas State win over Iowa State at Arrowhead Stadium, said: "Up and down. He made some plays. He made some things happen. But he got us hurt a time or two.''

Even the quarterback, 23-year-old senior Grant Gregory, who has been through college football's meat grinder as a backup at Indiana, South Florida and K-State, gave himself only a C-plus.

Bill? Grant? Are you serious?

Gregory gets an A-plus-plus. He gets every gold star on sale at Hobby Lobby. He gets to kiss the Homecoming queen and ring the bell at Wall Street. He gets everything but a visit to the White House.

You have to know Gregory's story to appreciate what he did to help the Wildcats beat Iowa State.

He went to Indiana out of Athens High in Ohio, but stayed only a year before transferring to South Florida. There, he was unable to beat out Matt Grothe, so he carried a clipboard for most of his four years.

Then, rather than sit again behind Grothe, he transferred to quarterback-less Kansas State, only to sit for most of the Wildcats' first four games while Carson Coffman started.

During the week leading up to the Iowa State game, though, Snyder made a switch. He started mixing in Gregory with the first-team offense. It happened Wednesday, then again Thursday.

"I started thinking, 'I might be starting,' " Gregory said. "But it was more like I was going to believe it when I got on the field.''

Technically, Gregory didn't start at quarterback Saturday. He started at wide receiver because running back Daniel Thomas took the first snap in a Wildcat formation.

Gregory was at quarterback for the second play, though, and for all but one or two plays thereafter. He completed 16 of 23 attempts and threw two touchdowns, including a 54-yard strike to Brandon Banks for the game's decisive score with 5:36 left.

It was decisive only because K-State's Emmanuel Lamur blocked a PAT by Iowa State's Grant Mahoney, who had been 47 of 47 on extra points, after a dramatic Cyclones touchdown with 32 seconds remaining.

Gregory wasn't perfect. What? You expect a guy who hasn't broken a sweat in a football game since his senior year in high school six years ago to be perfect?

He threw an interception. He missed a couple of open receivers. He ran a time or two when he should have passed and passed a time or two when he should have run.

What do you expect?

Without Gregory, though, Kansas State doesn't sniff winning this game. He gave the Wildcats a bunch of things they didn't have with Coffman at quarterback. Most of all, though, he gave K-State an offensive identity.

"You saw him come out of some flushes and get the ball downfield,'' Snyder said. "We got a big broken-play touchdown.''

That's the one to Banks, when Gregory eluded a couple of Iowa State defenders and threw across his body while steaming toward the sideline. The ball had just enough zip to get into Banks' arms, and he sidestepped a couple of Iowa State players to get into the end zone.

Gregory also ran two yards for K-State's first touchdown and, again after scrambling, found Lamark Brown standing like a statue in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

"This means a lot,'' Gregory said. "It's been six years since I really thought I helped a team win and it felt good to feel like I was part of a victory. Six years since I've done my part and it feels awesome.''

Tears welled up in Gregory's eyes as he talked about his journey. He was a standout quarterback at Athens, but he couldn't find his way in college. More than once, he thought it just wasn't meant to be.

"I'm not the prettiest quarterback,'' Gregory said. "I don't have an NFL arm. But I have a passion for the game and I know how to play the game pretty well and that's what I pride myself on. I helped teams win in high school and I always thought I could do the same thing if I ever got a chance in college.''

Kansas State represented Gregory's last frontier. He's out of college eligibility after this season, so this was it.

"It was rough here during training camp and the first couple of weeks of the season because I wasn't performing well,'' Gregory said. "But it's a long season and I knew at some point the team was going to need me to play well. I'm just glad I didn't screw it up.''

He did beat himself up about his one interception and, even though he was riding a cloud, he was able to point out all of his miscues.

Thus the C-plus grade.

"I do some things and they're not always the way they're drawn up,'' he said. "But I also feel like I can make some plays when they're not there. I might not always make the play that is there, unfortunately.''

Gregory remembers everything about his last high school regular-season game, a 34-24 win over Point Pleasant, W. Va. It gave Athens a 7-3 record.

Gregory rattled off his numbers, almost without thinking: 10 of 15, 175 yards, two touchdowns.

"I still remember,'' he said. "My good friend, our running back, had a 200-yard game.''

Now he's viable again, although Snyder wouldn't commit to starting Gregory again next Saturday at Texas Tech. Not that he needed to — we all know who is starting at quarterback in Lubbock next week.

"This is my seven-game season now,'' Gregory said. "This is my career, right here. Seven games.''

His mother was in the stands at Arrowhead to watch. She's his biggest supporter, Gregory said. "She thinks I'm John Elway.''

He's not even close. But he finally had his Elway-moment, leading a comeback and getting his team a win.

There are athletes who don't appreciate those moments like they should. Gregory, you can tell, is not one of them.

"Some guys get to college and they're four-year starters and things like that,'' he said. "For me, it's been tough sitting on the bench for five years. Now I got to play one game and I will cherish this and hope I get a chance next week.''

  Comments