INDIANAPOLIS --- The NFL Combine was a homecoming for Nebraska pass rusher, top-5 pick, and nearby Hamilton Southeastern High School alumnus Randy Gregory, and his father called his son's shot years ago.
"My dad called it when I was nine-years-old, said I was going to make it here," Gregory said at the NFL Combine Sunday. When he was 12-years-old, Gregory says that's when it hit him, as he was hitting the opposition as a running back.
"I really see the game differently. I think this is definitely something I really want to pursue," Gregory remembered telling himself just before becoming a teenager.
Then in high school at nearby Hamilton Southeastern High School, just 29 miles from the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Gregory blossomed.
"He was a very good high school player and was very gifted. I knew he had a high ceiling at 6'6", only around 200 pounds. He had a lot of room to improve," Gregory's head coach Scott May at Hamilton Southeastern recalled. "(I) saw a lot of his game on TV at Nebraska and was impressed with his development – great off the ball and can rush the QB but athletic enough to drop into coverage!"
May said he's never had an NFL Draft prospect of Gregory's calibur come through his program. The closest he's coached was Rex Grossman, when May was an assistant coach in Bloomington, Indiana. Colts offensive lineman Joe Reitz went to Hamilton Southeastern, like Gregory, but wasn't a highly-touted draft prospect.
May has stayed in touch with Gregory, speaking with him over the phone during Christmas breaks, after Gregory's parents moved out-of-state following high school. However, Gregory will always be a Hamilton Southeastern Royal, in fact royalty at this point.
"We have a wall with 'Royals at the next level' in our locker room and put players pictures up there for younger guys to see," said May. "Believe me. Our kids know who he is and will be watching the draft this year saying, 'I know that guy, he's a Royal.'"
Perhaps watching a budding NFL star pass rusher...
"Now around 250 lbs, and I am sure stronger," said May, "I think he can still get bigger and stay athletic. It will be fun to watch him develop as an NFL player."
That was the one concern with Gregory at the Combine though. He didn't weigh in at 250 pounds. He weighed in at 235 pounds, causing some concern for a guy being projected as a potential top-5 defensive end or rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
"Even at 235 pounds, I still think I set the edge pretty well because of my technique. I think I use my strength well for how much I weigh," said Gregory. "I just did 24 reps on the bench (press at 225 pounds). So, I'll only get stronger."
How hard will it be for Gregory to add more mass to his frame to satisfy some NFL teams?
"It's not difficult. I'd probably say it's a little harder to maintain it," he explained, saying he's weighed anywhere from 230 to 258 in the past. "I've always been able to put on weight real quickly and lose it real quickly."
One of Gregory's trainers came to the defense of his weight on Twitter during the Combine:
Randy Gregory's weight is a reflection of him getting over a stomach virus recently. He CAN add weight & has been over 240 during training — Ryan Goldin (@RGoldinGATA) February 20, 2015
Gregory has also been working with former all-pro defensive end Chuck Smith. The former Cornhusker may lack the experience sometimes desired in a top-5 pick, but the physical tools are there. What he's learning from Smith doesn't hurt either.
"Every day I'm learning something new. Some of the stuff he taught me, if I would've known that in college, my game would've been that much better," said Gregory. "I'm happy I'm working with him. He's worth the money. He's worth the time and effort."
Along with Smith, Gregory said some of the other pass rushers he's been a fan of are Osi Umenyiora and Von Miller. Pass Rushers like are guys Gregory has watched tape of with his current advisor Chuck Smith, as he continues to prepare to play in both a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, whichever the team that drafts him uses.
"This is just the beginning. Blank slate, new team, new teammates, and I'm just trying to embrace all of that," said Gregory.
His friends and family here at home near Hamilton Southeastern High School are doing the same.