Before Max Hall there was Lenny Gomes.
In 1993, Gomes offered up one of the most infamous quotes in the history of the BYU vs. Utah rivalry. Speaking of the Utes, Gomes declared, “All those guys think that’s all there is to life. But when I’m making $50-60,000 a year, they’ll be pumping my gas. They’re low class losers.”
Gomes says he has regretted that comment, made in the heat of the moment, for nearly 17 years now.
He also says that he has changed a lot since then.
For starters, he has changed his name to Lenny Gregory. He adopted the surname of his biological father, whom he discovered while a student at BYU.
He’s also now following his dream by teaching school and coaching football and golf at Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia. That after spending most of his professional career in sales in the lumber industry.
Gregory, who came from a difficult home life while growing up in Santa Rosa, California, says that looking back he realizes the profound effect playing at BYU under Lavell Edwards had on his life.
“The way I grew up, it was hard to trust people," Gregory says. “The lessons I learned and the things that were instilled in me there, I’m convinced they saved my life. Lavell would tell us all the time that the door was always open. I came from a situation where nobody in my family had ever graduated from college. Lavell would always check in on me to find out how I was doing in school and how I was coming along on my goal to graduate. It was never about football for him, it was always about the person.”
Gregory ended up at BYU after taking a recruiting trip on the advice of his high school principal, who happened to be the father of former BYU player David Miles.
“I had verbally committed to Oregon, but when I went to Provo, I fell in love,” Gregory says. “I was extremely attracted to the family atmosphere that the BYU coaches had. They were strong, fatherly figures—something that was missing in my life. They were men you could trust.”
Though he says he is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Lenny’s continued respect, admiration, and appreciation for BYU is the reason that he now encourages players he coaches to take a good long look at BYU.
“I know BYU means a lot to Mormons.” Gregory says. “But for non-Mormons it means a lot as well. The structure, honesty and integrity, it means a lot to me. BYU is such a special place for me, to be able to send players there, it means a lot.”
In the spring of 2009, Gregory sent video of two of his players to BYU coaches, Shawn Green, who eventually signed with Georgia Tech and Joseph Champaign, who ended up at Air Force. The coaches were impressed with both players, but they were also very intrigued with a defensive back they saw on the video.
A young man by the name of Kori Gaines.
A visit by Gaines to Provo was all it took for the Cougars to lock up the 5′9″, 170-pound cover man.
“The kid is very, very talented," Gregory explains. “He’s played against some of the top players in the country here in Georgia. The speed here in Georgia and Florida is unbelievable. When Kori was a sophomore we played against (wide receiver) Brice Butler who was a senior at Norcross and then went on to USC. We put Kori on him and he locked him down.”
Grayson plays in Georgia’s 5-A classification, the highest in the state. In the last three years, the Rams have posted a 37-4 record. They made impressive runs in the state playoffs the last two years, making it to the quarterfinals in 2009 after reaching the semifinals in 2008. Gregory says that Gaines has been an important part of the Rams’ success.
“As a person, he is a great kid,” says Lenny. “He comes from a great family and he has very strong religious ties. He’s the type of kid that is fearless and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He has tremendous feet and hips and the kid can jump. People are going to be impressed by how physical and tenacious Kori is. I would not be surprised to see him end up on the offensive side of the ball as a receiver, or see him play this year as a punt returner.”
As a coach, Gregory has sought to impart the wisdom he has gained from his experiences in life and in football to Gaines and the rest of the athletes that pass through the Grayson program. One of the things that he stresses is how to carry oneself as an athlete.
“I started 39 games at BYU and was a three-time all-conference player. But everyone remembers me for a stupid comment I made.”
Gregory says that he is doing his best today to help kids learn to do things the right way and help them develop strength of character and a strong work ethic. In a very real way he is paying forward the gift he was given by Lavell Edwards and BYU.
“The vision of our coaching staff is that it’s more than just football. It’s a ministry of saving kids lives and giving back.”
By the way, for those of you that haven’t seen Kori Gaines in action, here are highlights from his junior year.