Mac Engel

To understand Randy Gregory, we went back to his high school... in Indianapolis

The photo displayed of current Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Indianapolis, where he was a two-sport athlete. He graduated in 2011. Gregory was recently reinstated by the NFL after serving a two year suspension.
The photo displayed of current Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Indianapolis, where he was a two-sport athlete. He graduated in 2011. Gregory was recently reinstated by the NFL after serving a two year suspension. Star-Telegram

The high school is posh, loaded with multiple athletic gyms, fields, its own natatorium, media centers, and so far removed from the “wrong side of the tracks” an actual train could not find this place with a GPS.

Around Hamilton Southeastern High School in the northeast Indianapolis suburb of Fishers are mostly high dollar homes, and strip centers stuffed with Starbucks and the economic footprint so typical of a well to-do area.

If you live in Indianapolis, Indiana, you want your kid to go to school at Hamilton Southeastern. This is where Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory, who moved often as a kid, attended high school and was a two-sport athlete in football and basketball.

Along the walls of Hamilton Southeastern, between its gymnasium and aquatics center, are photos of all of its all-state athletes, including Gregory’s familiar smirking smile for his 2010 all-state picture. He is your average, nice looking high school senior.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is very much looking forward to seeing what defensive end Randy Gregory is going to do when the Cowboys open up training camp this week.

Although he’s an NFL player, nothing about Gregory’s career is singled out at this school with an enrollment of more than 3,000 other than this photo, mostly because the school has produced so many quality student athletes who have done well on the college level. Among the honorees here includes former Michigan State basketball player Gary Harris, who recently signed a four-year, $84 million deal with the Denver Nuggets.

And the inside of these walls explains some, certainly not all, of what has dogged Gregory since he graduated.

“We never had problems with Randy Gregory when he was busy with basketball or football. He was a great kid with a great family. His dad went Northwestern,” said the school’s long time athletic director, James Self. “My prayer is that Randy has learned some valuable lessons and has grown up. Am I proud of him? Yes. Am I proud of all of the decisions he’s made? No. When he was here we talked about him being a role model.

“I remember telling Randy, ‘You don’t have a choice of whether you are going to be a role model. You are. You are a talented athlete at Hamilton Southeastern and kids are going to look up to you.’”

That never registered. Or he didn’t care. For years. Maybe it has now.

Gregory was recently reinstated by the NFL after serving a two-year suspension for repeatedly failing drug tests. According to sources close to Gregory, he has faithfully attended counseling meetings for issues far beyond that of drinking or smoking weed.

He’s worked at his life.

According to faculty who were familiar with Gregory during his career at HSE, Gregory’s biggest problem was not his attitude or effort but rather that he was a follower. He was not a leader, and he simply had a tendency to follow the wrong people.

Not criminals. Just young kids making some dumb decisions.

Not long after Gregory dropped to the second round and was picked by the Dallas Cowboys with the 60th selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, he immediately followed one of the worst people a rookie could tail: troubled defensive end Greg Hardy.

Hardy liked to party, not show up for practice and ignore phone calls. And smoke weed. He lasted one drama-filled season with the Cowboys before they flushed him.

Before Gregory played around with Hardy, he thrived at failing drug tests. Even after Hardy left, there just have been a slew of decisions, and social media comments, that make his coaches all ask the same thing, “What are you doing?”

Only the same things that led to every team passing on him in the first round of the ‘15 Draft when he should have been a top 10 selection.

“I loved the kid as a person and he was an amazing football and basketball player in high school,” said Scott May, Gregory’s high school coach.

That’s all May would say. For a high school coach to say so little about one of his former players who reached the NFL could be seen as a red flag.

“I really don’t think so,” Self said. “The only real red flag was that maybe he would be late sometimes, or that he was un-Godly talented and, at 16, he didn’t know how talented he was. He didn’t get in trouble here; he made some poor choices, but nothing big at all. We suspended him once but it wasn’t because of what he’s doing now.”

That was “the bus incident.”

Before a football game, Gregory consumed a considerable amount of water. On the school bus, he needed to use a bathroom. There wasn’t one. Instead, he relieved himself in a plastic bottle.

He then proceeded to thrust the bottle, which had the cap on, in a teammates’ face. Not exactly smart, and not exactly atypical of a high school male.

Either way, the sophomoric gag did not go over well. Gregory was suspended for the next game, as was the coach.

The point was to make sure Gregory understood actions have consequences.

Gregory was lined up to attend Purdue out of high school, but he had to improve his grades first. That’s why he spent one season at Arizona Western College.

Gregory eventually changed from Purdue to attend Nebraska, where he excelled so much he was considered a top 10 NFL pick.

Considering all that has happened since that draft, much like his time at Hamilton Southeastern, that is all a lifetime ago.

Gregory started his football career at a place loaded with advantages.

Whether it was Hamilton Southeastern, Nebraska or the Cowboys, he’s had life-altering opportunities because of his family, because of his talent, and because people like him.

The Cowboys stuck by Gregory for a reason beyond talent. They like him.

But he’s 25 and stands at the starting line of his football career for the last time.

The people of Hamilton Southeastern will talk about what a good guy he was, and pridefully brag on his current successes.

They may also lament what should have been.

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