“He was a coach that that would scream and yell and push you to your limits,” said Craig Schmidt, a 1988 Centerville graduate who played center, “but he always had a message. He was really big on trying to turn us into young men — not just great football players.”
During his high school career, Schmidt snapped the ball to all-state quarterback Kirk Herbstreit, who paid tribute to Gregg on Twitter on Sunday.
“Coach was a legend on the field but so much more,” wrote Herbstreit, the longtime ESPN college football analyst who played at Ohio State. “He was TOUGH, DEMANDING, at times intimidating. But he taught us about TEAM, HARD WORK, PERSEVERANCE & SACRIFICE. Blessed to have him in my life!”
Milano called Gregg a “master motivator,” comparing him to Mickey, the trainer in the Rocky movies.
“He was tough as nails,” Milano said, “and maybe it’s overused, but he was a man’s man, and he would get the best out of each individual person. What you thought you could achieve, he would put you in a different stratosphere of what you would achieve. You would achieve so much under his motivation that you couldn’t believe it looking back. He was an absolute incredible speaker. His halftime and pregame speeches were absolutely incredible. If I had a tape recorder, I’d listen to him every day. He had us foaming from the mouth.”
Dan Tarpey, an assistant superintendent at Centerville, coached on Gregg’s staff from 1987-95. He was the defensive backs coach in 1991 when Centerville reached the state championship game for the first time, losing 24-21 to Cleveland St. Ignatius. That appearance came seven years after Centerville became the first Dayton-area Division I team to reach the state final four.
“His players absolutely loved him,” Tarpey said, “and maybe that was his hallmark. His players loved him, and they played hard for him. He was very demanding. He was always about toughness and hard work.”
Gregg laid the foundation for a program that has made the playoffs 13 times in the 21 seasons since his retirement after the 1999 season.
“Tough to give it up, but we all have to do it sometime,” Gregg said then. “I’ve got a lot of good men behind me who’ll do a good job.”
Josh Kneidl, a 2000 Centerville graduate who played linebacker, called Gregg a “larger-than-life guy” in football and in life.
“Walking into the weight room, he was just a huge figure,” Kneidl said. “Wherever you went, you kind of knew he was there. For him, it was all about self discipline, teaching people how to do things and then giving them accountability to make sure they did it. You couldn’t walk in the weight room and say, ‘Oh, I’m tired,’ or whatever. Wherever you were, you were expected to get after it. He set that tone.”
Jack Sperry, a 1980 Centerville graduate who played offensive guard and linebacker, remembers Gregg speaking at the Dayton Convention Center at a ceremony honoring him after his retirement. Sperry said Gregg mentioned only one player by name in his speech — not one of his famous players like Herbstreit, A.J. Hawk or Mike Nugent — but Richard Topper, a fourth-string wide receiver who Sperry said never caught a pass in his career.
“Rich was a friend of mine,” Sperry said, “and what coach said about him was that he exemplified Centerville High School football — not because of his greatness on the field, but because he never missed a workout, never missed a practice and gave 110 percent all the time, knowing that he would probably never step on the field. That, to me, spoke volumes about coach Gregg. He was able to get a guy like Rich Topper to commit wholly to the program and to what my recollection were grueling practices.”