OG Kurtis Gregory (L.G. Patterson/AP)
The Carolina Panthers increased the competition on their offensive line by signing Missouri guard Kurtis Gregory as an undrafted free agent. The aggressive mauler will fight four other players -- none of whom has more than two years experience -- for a backup guard position. Gregory takes a break from the competition to talk with Panther Insider.
Kurtis Gregory was one of the most experienced and accomplished offensive linemen in this year’s rookie class. He started at right guard during his final three seasons at Missouri, including a memorable junior season in which the Tigers ranked in the top-10 nationally in scoring offense and total offense.
Three years of strong game tape were not enough to get Gregory drafted. But they were enough to catch the attention of the Panthers.
“The Panthers showed the most interest towards the end of the draft,” Gregory said.
Gregory felt wanted in Carolina, so at the recommendation of agent Joseph Wright, he made the decision to join the Panthers.
Now a couple months into his pro orientation, Gregory’s head is still spinning.
“[The first couple weeks] were hectic, just trying to learn a new offense and new plays and different techniques,” he said.
“It’s like when you jump from high school to college, you know in college you’re playing the best high school players. But once you go to the NFL, you’re going against the best of the best college players. You have to be on top of your game every single play. It’s hectic trying to get used to the speed and all that stuff.”
Gregory may be overwhelmed -- what rookie isn’t this time of year? -- but he’s certainly not unprepared. Missouri has placed several players in the NFL and alumni like OT Colin Brown (Kansas City Chiefs) and QB Chase Daniel (New Orleans Saints) have gone back to the school to talk with players such as Gregory to brace them for what lies ahead.
OG Kurtis Gregory
Missouri did more than provide Gregory with a couple mentors: It provided him with pro-level competition.
“Over the program's last three years, Missouri was put into the national spotlight,” he said. “We got some big games going. With the competition of the Big 12, you’re not going to face anyone better.”
Of course, that last line is a bit of a cliché. Gregory has already faced better competition during minicamps and OTAs. Luckily for him, the Panthers veterans are just as willing to dish out advice as they are to smash helmets.
“There are a lot of great guys who have been helpful,” Gregory said. “Jordan Gross, Ryan Kalil, Travelle Wharton, the guys that have been there for a while. You can always ask them questions and they’ll help you out.”
Gregory developed a quick respect for his fellow linemen in Carolina, but that doesn’t mean he’s afraid of a little competition. The Panthers have some maulers clearing the way for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and Gregory feels he’s talented enough to fit right in.
In fact, Gregory has a bit of an edge because of his versatility.
“I was a guard, a tackle and a backup center,” he said. “I’m just happy to get the opportunity [in Carolina] with the rookie free-agent contract and I’m going to go out and do whatever I can.”
That includes working his tail off in the “off” months leading up to training camp.
“I’m running to try to stay in shape. That way, I will be in shape and able to go through training camp," he said. "Also, I’m just working on basic technique stuff. I need to work on improving my overall game and if I do that I think I will have a good shot.”
And for an undrafted rookie like Gregory, a good shot is all he ever wanted.
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