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All that is left for Randy Gregory is to put together his breakout season

The Cowboys defensive end has finally found some balance in his life, and hopes to have a big year.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Randy Gregory. Leader.

It’s a combination of words that would’ve caused tremendous confusion had they been paired together in years past. The Cowboys’ talented defensive lineman wasn’t looked upon as a leader of his own life after dealing with off-the-field issues that kept him sidelined for a significant portion of his career.

So now, to be considered reliable enough to hold a leadership role among a group of others is a wildly heartwarming evolution of personal growth. Gregory’s made numerous headlines throughout this offseason for his athletic exploits. Be it snuffing out opposing play-calls with a cunning football IQ, or busting through attempts to contain him with stunning displays of brute strength, Gregory’s looked every bit the part of a star at Oxnard.

He’s used to praise when it comes to his on-field feats. High expectations have followed him since his college career at the University of Nebraska. But drug problems and a poor off-field reputation have not lagged far behind him.

Those same struggles poisonously trickled into his pro career, but with a fresh start looming on the horizons in 2021, plus a new defensive coordinator ready to fully unleash the beast he knows he can be, Gregory is primed and ready to take the next step into a catalyst his team can fully count on.

And the Cowboys can see that temperament in him as he grows into an everyday contributor. They've already rewarded him for his work. The ‘Boys recently released their 14-man “leadership council” — a group of players the team looks to as not only spirited captains, but consummate backbones. These players will be relied upon for on-field production, but more importantly from a personal standpoint, for guidance and security in helping their fellow brethren succeed in their walks of life.

For Gregory, it’s an honor his coaches believe he’s earned, and that he doesn’t take lightly.

“I wasn’t really expecting that. But I think that it says a lot about my journey as far as my growth. Five years ago, this would never even be a conversation. I didn’t have any sort of leadership skills. Even right now, I’m still working on those things. One of my things is just being more vocal. I haven’t been very good at that in the past; I’m trying to do that around the guys. I think I’m doing a good job of it. Next is obviously putting a good product on the field, making sure I know what I need to do so I actually look like a leader and act like a leader.”

For Gregory, his path back to redemption is one that includes a dose of self-confidence.

“I think you have to be comfortable with yourself, confident in yourself. There were times in the past I was a very anxious individual. I was a guy that had low self esteem and I didn’t do very well in situations like this or situations like where I had to bring out my leadership skills and really be confident in myself.

Like I said being confident on the field and off the field, it kind of goes hand in hand. When I’m doing well on one hand, I think I’ll do well in the other.”

His head coach, while not a part of Gregory’s long-term journey, has certainly taken note of his progression.

“We all know his history. I didn’t know Randy at all. There’s input into that decision on who is on that council throughout the whole building. I think it’s just a reflection of how we feel about Randy Gregory. It’s a huge statement. We all have history. So you have a starting point and based on our starting point to where he is today, he’s made a huge leap.”

Gregory has spent his time in Oxnard terrorizing the Cowboys offense. We didn’t get to see his growth in the Hall of Fame game, but all eyes will be on the new-and-improved Gregory when the Cowboys finally put him in a preseason game. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn likes what he sees.

“I’d say he’s got a rare ability to bend,” Quinn said. “He’s got initial quickness. But I think it’s his ability to stick his foot in the ground and bend that makes him so unique. When it’s time to twist and he can bend and get outside or inside on a play. He’s got unique stuff and I’m looking forward to seeing it.”

This could finally be the year for a Gregory breakout.