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Go-getter Gregorak drives the Griz defense
His football passion is front and center on Saturday afternoons at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Next time you’re there, take a gander at the Montana sideline. Look for a big guy bouncing around with boundless energy and enthusiasm.
Ty Gregorak will remind you why you’re there in the first place. Give you an idea what this thing called Griz football means to those who live it.
You may have heard the UM assistant coach was knocked down two years ago. Lost his job as a UNLV assistant after being leveled with charges that were later dismissed.
Don’t feel bad for him.
Feel good he’s back in Missoula for a second stint after a brief stop at Central Washington to get on his feet professionally and work through the emotions of a divorce. Give credit to former Griz head coach Robin Pflugrad, who had the guts to bring back Gregorak in 2011.
“It was a very painful experience,” Ty says of the days after his firing in Las Vegas. “That being said, there’s a part of me that is happy it happened. You learn a lot.
“It was very humbling for me knowing I had a lot of people sticking their neck out to say hey, this guy got knocked on his butt. Let’s help him get back. I’ll be forever grateful. Getting my job taken away really put things in perspective.”
The effects of Pflugrad’s firing are yet to be determined. But maybe this gregarious Spokane native he promoted to defensive coordinator a few weeks before his March departure, a man who knows what it’s like to have his life shaken to the core, is just the right one to help lead Montana out of a perceived rut.
“I love that we’re picked third,” said Gregorak of the Big Sky Conference pollsters, who view UM as vulnerable.
“I wish we were picked lower because it just gives us more fuel. People think we’re down. We’re still the Big Sky champions last time I checked. We’re going to go out and compete this year, I promise you.”
Gregorak has his hands full replacing nine defensive starters. He broached the subject with his players the first night of fall camp. He’ll never mention it again because he hates excuses.
Getting the most out of his troops is something Ty intends to do his own way. Unlike his capable predecessor and mentor, Kraig Paulson, he’ll prowl the sidelines instead of watching from upstairs.
“I’ll be the first to tell you that you don’t see as much,” he said. “But in terms of an energy level, a fella being down there and getting them going, the sideline is where I want to be.”
Gregorak also has his own way of connecting with players. In his mind it’s important to be strict when the situation merits. But he still remembers the qualities he loved most in his position coach while playing linebacker for Colorado.
“I hope from Day One that they come in here until the day they leave that they know they’ve always got an ally and a friend in me,” he said. “I enjoy having the guys up to the house.
“We were all there as college kids, living three to a room or whatever. Sometimes it’s just nice to go sit on a real couch again or have a real meal. When kids get to see you on a personal level, it changes the dynamics of the relationship a little. I never want cross the line between coach and friend, but I think you can walk that line. It boils down to respect that goes both ways.”
So many questions are yet to be answered for the 2012 Grizzlies, who open at home in two weeks against South Dakota. Heaven only knows what kind of defensive coordinator Gregorak will make as he implements the best of what he learned from forerunners Mike Breske (think zone pressure) and Paulson with his own ideas and those of his co-workers and players.
“I’m always open for suggestions,” offered Gregorak, who’s on top of the world after marrying former UM assistant volleyball coach Kandice (Kelly) Gregorak, currently the head coach at North Idaho. “A lot of guys know more football than I do. But I promise you, these guys will play hard. They’ll play their butts off, period.”
There’s two things this sports writer knows for sure about the Grizzlies’ 33-year-old defensive coordinator: He’s a great communicator and a man’s man. He’s like the teacher you had in high school who compelled you to succeed so you wouldn’t let him down.
It may take time for Montana’s defenders to mesh, but they looked good in Saturday’s scrimmage and they’ll give their all for Gregorak. Guaranteed.