Oct. 4, 2006
by Justin Chartrey
SEATTLE -- For as long as he can remember, Greyson Gunheim has wanted to hit people. Ever since his first taste of tackle football as an 8-year-old in Pop Warner, he knew he was at home laying wood on the opposing team.
From an early age Gunheim was extremely self-motivated to get into football, and it did not take any prompting from his parents to don the helmet and pads.
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At 6 foot 6 inches and getting up to 230 pounds, the California native knew his future was on the defensive side of the ball. He received offers from Nebraska, Cal and Washington, but it was his trip to the UW campus that sealed the deal for him. "The fan: I remember my first time running out having the stadium filled up and screaming it was crazy,"; Gunheim said. Every time it brings a smile to my face. The fans are just nuts and I love it.
After jumping on the scene as a freshman in 2004, Gunheim found himself on the field early and often, seeing playing time in all 11 games, starting seven of them and garnering 16 total tackles.
His performance in the Huskies 1-10 season was one of the few bright spots on a defense that gave up 27.8 points per game. It immediately put him at the front of the depth chart to start in 2005.
For the Huskies, the off-season following the dreadful 2004 campaign was a tumultuous one, which included firing second-year coach Keith Gilbertson and hiring Tyrone Willingham, who had recently been terminated by Notre Dame. Gunheim, a Gilbertson recruit, suddenly found himself with a new coaching staff and a new playbook. With the change, he had to prove to someone new that he was worthy of the starting job at defensive end.
Perhaps the thing that helped him most was that Willingham retained defensive line coach Randy Hart, a coach whom Gunheim considers a great influence in his life.
"Without Coach Hart I don't know where I'd be,"; he said. "I've learned so much from him, reading stances or reading the offense, how to get out of the box, everything.";
Since his freshman year, Gunheim has impressed both his coaches and his fellow players; his improvement on and off the field is evident.
"I think the real growth in Greyson is as an individual,"; Willingham said. "And that is beginning to express itself in his play. Now he's starting to work toward his own self-image.";
He will be the first to acknowledge that his strengths are lining up in the trenches and getting to the quarterback, as well as leading by example. He has never been one for firing up his team with an inspiring speech, but those close to him acknowledge that he has begun to show improvement in his leadership both on and off the field.
"He is starting to embrace a leadership role,"; Willingham said. "With more of a comfort level, he is willing to take on more leadership.";
Now in his third year, Gunheim is doing his best to help the Huskies turn their fortunes around. His first two seasons the team was miserable, going 3-19 with only one win against a Pac-10 opponent.
For him, the worst moment in his career came at the end of his sophomore season. After a convincing win in Arizona the Huskies were going up against rival Washington State, and at the end of the game they were in a position to win at home. It was not to be, however, as the Cougars scored a touchdown in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
"Losing to Washington State, that's the worst,"; Gunheim said. "Especially last year, losing at the end when we should have won. We were just like, `What happened?' A last minute thing and they won.";
Since that moment, he and his teammates have worked tirelessly to improve a defense that gave up a league worst of 275.7 yards per game in the air by generating more of a pass rush. For Gunheim personally, that will mean improving on a five-sack effort from last year. This work has shown itself early in the season, with the Huskies shutting down the passing games of Fresno State and UCLA and holding Arizona to minus-seven yards rushing. Although, the moment that has defined the individual effort of Gunheim early on was in punt coverage against the Bruins.
After Sean Douglas punted the ball 64 yards, the UCLA return man Terrence Austin broke free from the coverage and started a sprint toward the end zone and looked to be home free - except for Gunheim.
The defensive lineman, now 260 pounds, ran up behind the speedy Bruin at the eight-yard line and violently shoved him out of bounds, setting the Washington defense up for another red zone stand in which UCLA had to settle for a field goal rather than a touchdown that would have made the UW comeback much more difficult.
Willingham refuses to let that moment define his young player, saying, "He has flashes of all the ability that he has, and I'm just looking forward to the day that it all fits in place."
Just a week later, Gunheim was part of the rabid Husky pass rush that recorded six sacks against Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama and two sacks of his own. They were his first and second of the season.
It is plays like those that Willingham hopes will begin to define the junior's playing career as a whole. It excites the coaching staff that he still has such a tremendous upside as a person and a player. However, you will not hear it from Gunheim's mouth; instead, he would rather just show you.