When Eastern Washington University’s football staff were making their way through the south Puget Sound area after the high school football season had concluded, they checked in with Gig Harbor High School coach George Fairhart to see if there’s any athletes they might have missed.
The first name Fairhart mentioned: Senior first-team all-South Sound Conference wideout Kellen Gregory, a 6-foot-3 target who had a big season for the Tides.
Once the coaching staff turned on the film, they saw Gregory’s potential.
Gregory went for an official visit to Eastern in February, made his verbal commitment and signed his letter of intent thereafter.
“I like how it’s close to home and I love the atmosphere,” Gregory said. “It’s close enough that my parents are able to come watch when they want. They have a good class coming in. It fit all the criteria.”
Gregory, who posted 588 yards and nine touchdowns on 42 catches in his senior season, won’t have a scholarship spot initially, but said he’s confident he can earn a scholarship spot on the team if he puts the work in.
“They said some really good things about how they think they can use me, and they liked me on and off the field,” Gregory said. “They liked that I was in the classroom and in the community — they want to bring that into here. It’s a good team fit, I liked the guys there.”
What about that red turf?
“I’ve never played on it,” Gregory said. “But I like it. I’m excited for it. I’ve been on it once or twice.”
EWU, recently, has been a team that likes to spread the football around to the receivers.
“That’s what I’m excited about,” Gregory said. “It’s receiver central. They had three guys go pro last year. They like to throw the ball. I think not having that scholarship to start out with, coming in with that chip on my shoulder will motivate me to work harder, be an even better player. I’m really competitive.”
The one thing that held Gregory’s recruiting back in high school was his speed. This spring, he turned out for the track team and has already seen the improvement.
“My speed is coming along,” he said. “I’m proving a lot of people wrong who think I’m not fast.”
Gig Harbor track coach Kevin Eager said they’re not doing anything special with Gregory, but he has come in with a willingness to learn and get faster.
“He’s a really good competitor,” Eager said. “He likes the intensity of track, the rhythms of practice. He didn’t realize it was going to be fun. I didn’t know if he’d be this good. He’s not our best kid or anything like that. But he’s been a pleasant surprise. You get your occasional football player, and sometimes they think they will just automatically be better than everyone else. He hasn’t been like that at all. He’s been like a sponge, trying to learn everything, work really hard.”
For Gregory, he wanted to tackle some adversity head-on. He’s been the best player on the football team for the past couple seasons.
“I wanted to learn to be part of a sport where you’re not one of the better players,” Gregory said. “That’s a skill you need to learn in life. I wanted to be part of a team where you’re not who everyone is watching, and just be a good team player. I’ve grown into liking this whole track thing.”
Odds are, EWU will redshirt Gregory next season. If the speed continues to develop, Gregory is betting he can carve out a solid college career with the Eagles.