John Heisman Gregory’s unique middle name was a compromise between his parents; his dad, James, wanted Heisman to be his son’s first name, but his mom, Krisma, was set on a more conventional, Bible-rooted name.
“(My dad) wanted to name me Heisman not because of football, but because he knew I was going to be the best at what I do,” Gregory said. “That’s what the trophy is about, being the best all around at what you do.”
Gregory is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound defensive back from Indian Land, and he’s blasted his name - including his memorable middle name - on the college recruiting radar in the past few months.
Indian Land head coach Horatio Blades said Gregory is one of the most coachable players he’s been around in football. Blades was a standout college linebacker at Pittsburgh, where he was a first team All-American and the 2006 Big East defensive player of the year. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins and took over as the Warriors’ head coach this year.
Blades devotes his career as a high school football coach to opening doors for athletes like Gregory. He helped Gregory get a spot at Pitt’s summer camp earlier in June and told coaches to keep eyes on his cornerback.
“I believe high school coaches are the biggest advocate for their players,” Blades said. “I will do my part through college coaches I know to get them the recognition they deserve.”
Blades said Pittsburgh is a dream school for Gregory. It’s his mother’s alma mater, and the Gregory family is originally from western Pennsylvania.
Blades helped Gregory get his shot and the player took care of his end. Gregory, who won a silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2016 track and field state championship, ran a 4.5 second 40-yard-dash at the Pitt camp and showed off his impressive athleticism.
“It gave me my moment to show out and show people what I can do,” he said recently.
Gregory then attended Duke’s summer camp and still impressed scouts with his footwork despite suffering a knee injury several days prior. He walked away from both the Pitt and Duke camps considered one of the top performers, and pulled scholarship offers from Ohio and Georgia State.
It’s uncommon these days for a high school football player to get their first recruiting attention the summer before their senior year. Better than late than never, of course. Gregory said the work he’s done this summer will have Power 5 eyes watching Indian Land during his 12th grade campaign.
“You (have) to work hard on and off the field and that starts with school,” said Gregory, who has a 4.3 grade point average. “The smarter you are the better. You’ll understand why things work the way they work and how things should go if you do them the right way.”
Gregory comes by his smarts honestly. His dad is a stockbroker and his mom is a pharmacist. If Gregory’s football career doesn’t stretch beyond college, he would like to be a psychiatrist.
The image of Gregory leaning back in a comfortable chair scratching his chin and asking patients “how did that make you feel?” doesn’t quite gel with the image of him shoving around Fort Mill wide receivers during a recent 7-on-7 scrimmage against the Yellow Jackets.
“Before I figured out what my middle name was I was into football,” Gregory said. “I’m going to stand with it and try to get that Heisman trophy, that’s my goal.”