UW linebacker Sean Constantine talks about former DC Justin Wilcox, who is now Cal's coach
Eight years ago, Bob Gregory came to a career intersection.
He had just finished his eighth season as the defensive coordinator for the California Golden Bears, and had been mentioned as a head coach for some time.
But months after the aggravating 2009 season ended, he went into former Cal coach Jeff Tedford’s office, and declared he wanted a life change.
He was opting to go to a less stressful place to coach, joining then-Boise State coach Chris Petersen as a linebackers coach.
And Gregory hasn’t looked back since.
At 54, Gregory is now the oldest assistant coach on the University of Washington football staff. He no longer wants to head a program, rather he simply wants to continue to follow a man — Petersen — who stands for the same principles, professionally and personally, that he does.
“When you kind of go through this thing, you want to be with really good people,” Gregory said. “When you are younger, you much don’t really care — you just go.”
A Gonzaga Prep graduate, Gregory was a walk-on safety at Washington State University, playing his entire career under former coach Jim Walden.
Since then, he has covered a vast amount of ground as an assistant — at a few different levels.
Gregory followed former WSU assistant Ken Woody to Washington University in Missouri, an NCAA Division III school, in 1987 where he was a volunteer assistant for two seasons.
He came back West and became a graduate assistant at Oregon for two more years before he got his first real break.
Dan Hawkins was one of the rising stars in coaching at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and plucked Gregory from the Ducks to become an assistant, eventually becoming the Bearcats’ defensive coordinator for six seasons (1992-97).
It was the ideal coaching playground for an up-and-coming defensive coach, learning how to stop some of the most wide-ranging NAIA/NCAA Division III offenses on the West Coast, including Pacific Lutheran University and Puget Sound in Tacoma.
“Sometimes guys at (NCAA Division III) or in high school are now (viewed) as good a coaches, but that was certainly not the case here,” Gregory said. “We ran into some great coaches.
“We got to experiment with a lot of stuff. There was only a couple thousand people in the stands, so there was not that kind of pressure. We also didn’t know any different, really, so we just did it, and play and had a ton of fun doing it.”
Gregory first coached with Petersen at Oregon in 1998 where Gregory was in charge of the defensive backs, and Petersen coached wide receivers.
Hawkins knew exactly who he wanted in charge of both sides of the ball when he became the Boise State coach in 2001 — Petersen on offense, and Gregory on defense. That is where their relationship grew.
And that is why Gregory has continued to work under Petersen the past seven-plus seasons — four years at Boise State (2010-13) and now in his fourth year at UW (2014-present).
“Being with coach (Petersen) and the kind of atmosphere he creates, it is unbelievable,” Gregory said. “I love working for the guy. I love all the people he has surrounded all of us with. That makes a big difference in your professional life, your personal life and with family.”
Gregory said he does not miss coordinating a defense, but last season agreed to be in charge of a different phases for the first time — special teams.
“Nobody really wants to be a special teams coordinator, because if it all goes good, it is fine, but you hear about it if it goes bad,” Gregory said. “It is a little bit of a thankless job in that way. But I do enjoy it. I love being able to talk to all the kids on the team.”
Gregory is still a big hit in the UW linebackers’ room, teaming up with co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski to teach that position group.
In one of his first seasons with Gregory, fifth-year UW linebacker Sean Constantine vividly remembers one of the assistant coach’s presentations, showing a documentary about African hunting dogs.
“We were all kind of like, ‘Dogs, huh?’” Constantine said. “But he put his own terminology around what was going on ... showing the different strategies about how they were going to go get the gazelle.
“He comes to it with an interesting mindset ... but he has a perspective that can relate to anyone. He will get you to understand things where some other coaches, this is the only way they know how to coach it.”