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If Edge Rusher Gregory Slips, Will Pittsburgh Roll The Dice?

With the recent news of Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory’s failed drug test for marijuana at the NFL Combine, it’s fair to ponder if the once top-10 pick will suffer a draft day freefall, perhaps into the range of the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the draft only a month away, a mishap on his part could see him tumble into the latter portion of the first round, and he has no one to blame but the man in the mirror.

“I blame myself,” Gregory said. “And I know it sounds cliché, but there’s really no one else I can blame.”

He first found out, courtesy of his father. He initially thought it was a letter from the NFL, inviting him to attend the draft. Little did he know it wasn’t a draft invite at all, but a letter notifying him of his failed drug test.

“Am I worried? Yeah, I’m worried,” he said, referencing his possible draft plummet. “At the same time, I’m confident. I know I’m going to be all right in the end.”

Growing up in a military family, Gregory was constantly moving, whether it be Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, Missouri or Indiana.

“The first thing my dad taught me was how to snap the ball, so when I went to try out, I ended up being the center,” he said.

He then bounced to running back, where he led his Pop Warner team to nationals, where he notched over 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns. In high school was where he finally found his natural position as defensive end. He initially committed to Purdue, but lackluster grades his senior year caused him to become ineligible.

“Purdue gave me the option of either going out to Arizona Western Community College or Iowa Western Community College,” Gregory said. “I chose Arizona Western and I went out there and it obviously all worked out.”

After showcasing his ability to bring down quarterbacks, Gregory had the national attention of 30-35 schools, all trying to gain his services. Nebraska eventually did, and that’s where his troubles with marijuana began. In 2014, he tested positive for it twice. Nebraska coaches alerted him that if a third instance occurred, he would be booted from the team. His instances with the drug branch back to his high school and JUCO days, where he said he smoked it to deal with the disappointment and stress from being academically disqualified from Purdue.

“I don’t wake up every day saying, “I’d really love to go smoke,” he said. “It’s not a struggle for me every day now, it really isn’t. In the past, hell yeah, it’s been a struggle. It really has been. Now, I’m focused on my dream.”

Leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh completely removed Ohio State tackle Mike Adams from it’s draft board due to a similar issue, and he had to write them a letter and abide by a code of ethics for them to even consider him.  He hasn’t had any recurring issues with it, and aside from being a stabbed during a robbery attempt, his main problem has been his lack of on-field performance. With the news of Gregory’s problems, he’s projected to take somewhat of a draft slide. Kansas City Chiefs sack artist and All-Pro Outside linebacker Justin Houston suffered a similar fate, failing a combine drug test and went from a probable late first rounder to the third round.

Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net seems to be reporting that the Steelers’ front office is again in a compassionate mood, as since the news broke regarding Gregory’s failed drug test, the Steelers are among the new team’s hosting him for a visit in the coming weeks. He would without a doubt add a legitimate pass rush presence to a team sorely lacking it, and at 6-foot-5 and now 243 pounds (he weighed only 235 at the combine due to a stomach ailment) he has a keen ability to rush the passer but also the athleticism to drop into coverage. He doesn’t think carrying extra weight will hurt him once he gets to the league either.

“I’ve been at Nebraska at over 255 pounds before and looked great, still move the same way I do now. I think I can weigh anything between 255 and 270 depending what scheme I’m in in the NFL,” he said.

He ran a 4.64 40 at the combine, but said he ran it in 4.53 Wednesday morning near Atlanta, GA. at the Goldin Athletics Training Association.

He’s supremely confident too, knowing his talents alone are worthy of a top-5 pick, but the recent news will cause some teams to frown upon him. One thing he’ll have to do at his visits is convince general managers and coaching staffs that his problems with the drug are behind him.

“I want people to understand I’m not some dumb jock pothead. I’m not,” he said. “I’m intelligent. I love the people who help me, I love my family, I love my support group. I love football. I love winning. And I don’t want to be labeled as some bust that couldn’t make it because he smoked. And I won’t be labeled as that.”

He’s also trying to convey, not only to Pittsburgh, but other teams interested in the speed rusher, that he’s the top-dog in the draft class when it comes to hunting quarterbacks.

“I’m trying to set myself apart from all the other edge rushers in the class,” he said. “I want a team to draft me and feel like this is a guy we can put anywhere on the field and he’s going to help us.”

He is about to live out a dream many males across America grow up envisioning, but only a select few get the opportunity to achieve. He realizes just how truly lucky he is to be blessed with such ability, but also realizes what a bonehead predicament he’s put himself in. Need proof of the trouble it can lead to? Two words-Josh Gordon.

“Marijuana could end my career,” he said. “This incident right now is a step toward ending my career. The last thing I want to do is fail another drug test and be out of the league. I want it on the record. I want people to understand I know I messed up. I’m owning up to it. I realize it. But at the same time, I’m taking the right steps to get better and to fix it.”

He’s saying all the right things, but it remains to be seen the weight those words will carry with Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert.

Links:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2015/02/08/randy-gregory-nebraska-draft-diary-keeps-moving/23054933/

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000481581/article/randy-gregory-i-blame-myself-for-failed-nfl-combine-drug-test

http://www.nfl.com/draft/2015/profiles/randy-gregory?id=2552446

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