BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Griffin Gentry has his sights set on Wall Street, but he’ll first need to learn about streets named Bull and Gervais.
Books will be every bit the priority that football is when the two-star defensive end reports to South Carolina later this week.
“That’s one of the things — really, education, that’s the main thing with me,” Gentry said. “They have a top school when it comes to business, that’s what I’m majoring in.”
Along with his visions of tackles and sacks, Gentry also sees bull markets and dollar signs. The No. 118-ranked strong-side defensive end in the Class of 2016 wants to be a stockbroker when he’s done playing football.
“In my econ class we had a stock market game (and) I placed in the top three, so I thought I was pretty good at it, so I thought I could get a career out of it,” Gentry said.
But the 6-foot-2, 260-pound kid from Homewood High School (Birmingham, Ala.) can bench press over 380 pounds, power-clean 335 and squat over 455. On the football field, he’s got a motor that won’t quit.
When it comes to complimenting football players, Homewood High School defensive coordinator Freddy Lawrence paid the ultimate respect to his former player.
“He plays the game like it’s supposed to be played,” Lawrence said. “He plays hard all the time.”
Admittedly, it wasn’t always that way. Gentry’s motor needed a little bit of time to reach peak performance.
“I thought I wasn’t doing enough for the team, so something needed to be done,” Gentry said.
Lawrence and Homewood defensive ends coach Eugene Newbold noticed the progression, most noticeably during Gentry’s senior season.
“He matured, just like any other young man in high school,” Lawrence said. “He matured and figured, ‘To get to where I want to go, I’ve got to put more into it,’ and he has.”
Newbold added, “You see him 50 yards down field, the guy is tackled out of bounds, but you see him busting down, to get to the ball.”
The motivation was tapped into after Gentry’s mother died of pancreatic cancer in the spring of his sophomore year.
“She really liked football a lot and her biggest thing was that she wanted me to play in college,” Gentry said, “So doing these sorts of things that would make her really proud, just a few things that she wanted to see me do.”
Gentry made his decision to play college football at South Carolina last fall, while offensive line coach Shawn Elliott was serving as interim head coach.
“When I first committed to coach Elliott I was pretty eager to see who they were going to hire and what was going to happen with the rest of the coaching staff,” Gentry said. “Then they got Coach (Will) Muschamp and Coach Muschamp brought in most of his guys from Auburn. I also liked Auburn a lot, so when they all moved to South Carolina, it kind of worked out for me.”
Since Muschamp didn’t offer Gentry a scholarship while he was at Auburn, there was a degree of uneasiness when the move was first announced, but it didn’t take long for those feelings to dissipate.
“As soon as he got hired, he started recruiting me when he was named the head coach … he called me and talked on the phone, told me how happy he was that I was a Gamecock,” Gentry said.
Muschamp will line Gentry up at the team’s hybrid defensive end/linebacker position, which is called the Buck. He’ll also work at strong-side defensive end.
“I know the transition from playing to a stand-up lineman can be a big difference, especially in the SEC,” Gentry said. “In high school, I was used to always playing on the wide-side of the field and that’s what the coaches told me at South Carolina, they like me out in space. I’m not completely new to it, but in a way, it’s definitely something I’m going to have to get used to.”
Aside from the usual learning curve that accompanies a defensive lineman trying to adjust from the high school level, Lawrence believes Gentry will transition well at South Carolina.
“He’s got really good strength, good core,” Lawrence said. “He comes out of his hips real well. He can bend and that’s what attracts most big schools, but his motor, man … he’s going to have to get stronger. He’s strong for high school, but I played a little college football, the SEC is different. Size, at 260, there’s (not) a lot of 260s playing defensive end in the SEC with a motor like his.
“That’s going to separate him up there from all of the young guys coming in, is the fact that he plays so hard. You play hard every day you get to play, eventually.”
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted