By Molly Hulsey
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Ask Kurtis Gregory what he wants to do after graduation and he answers quickly and with certainty.
"I just really want to farm."
Of course, if the NFL offers a career diversion and a paycheck, Gregory is willing to stay off the tractor for awhile. A standout offensive lineman, Gregory was named second team All-Big 12 in 2008. He started all 14 games on an offensive line that helped Missouri finish the season ranked in the NCAA top-10 in four major offensive categories.
His talent on the field makes him a huge asset to the Tigers' roster, but the award that really captures Gregory's spirit is the Big 12/Chick-Fil-A Community Champion award, which he received in 2008. The award honors the best student-athletes for contributions on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.
Gregory is one of 54 candidates for the 2009 William V. Campbell Trophy (formerly known as the Draddy Trophy), an elite award that is referred to as the "Academic Heisman." He is also a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award finalist, on the 2009 Preseason Outland Trophy Watch List, and a 2009 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team nominee.
On the field, Gregory credits his success to his upbringing. Raised on the family farm in the small town of Blackburn, Mo., he learned the value of hard work and an ability to take instruction at an early age doing chores with his father.
"Dad always said when I was a little kid he'd say, 'I'm just yelling at you because I'm worked up in the moment - don't take it personally. I'm just telling you how to do things the right way,'" Gregory said. "So when we were chasing cows or working with the hogs, he had to yell to make sure I was in the right place. I don't ever take anything too personally, and that's helped a lot in football."
Gregory's hard-working attitude carries over to the classroom as well. He received his bachelor's degree in agriculture in three years. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in the same subject and wants to put his education to use on his own farm once his football career has ended.
Gregory has quite the following for an offensive lineman. His number 78 jersey is sold in athletic stores in Blackburn and people around his hometown are fervently devoted to Gregory and the Missouri football team.
In Columbia, Gregory is vice-president and treasurer on the Student-Athlete Advisory Council and also involved with charity work. The attention he receives for his good deeds makes him uncomfortable.
"I kind of hate getting recognized for some of that stuff, because to me it's like, 'Why am I the one getting recognized? It's not that big of a deal," he said. "It's just something I helped with.' Knowing that you helped someone else without expecting anything out of it is what I like."
Over Thanksgiving break in 2008, he convinced his teammates to donate a portion of their per diem money to a local family in need; they raised over $1,000 for the Adopt-A-Family program. He also volunteers at and promotes the Children's Hospital and Central Missouri Food Bank, among other charities.
Being a motivational leader on and off the field is something Gregory cherishes. But he's also learned lessons from football and from his teammates that he says he'll carry with him.
"Never give up," Gregory says. "You always have to work hard, and there are no excuses. Just get your job done."
From his achievements on the field to his charity work off of it, Gregory has done an impressive job of following that advice.