One week after ‘Spiderman-like’ TD grab, wide receiver is one of 16 players to be honored Saturday on Senior Day at EWU
By Fedor Gaponenko, EWU Sports Information
His time as an Eagle has seemed short, but there has been no shortage of highlights for Eastern Washington University senior wide receiver Greg Herd.
Just last week, Herd had a Spiderman-like one-handed touchdown grab, which was just one of the highlights in a dominating, 34-17 victory over 16th-ranked Cal Poly. This week, when fifth-ranked EWU hosts UC Davis at Roos Field, he takes part in the emotional send-off of 16 Eagle seniors.
Herd was part of Eastern’s 2009 recruiting class, but because he didn’t redshirt, he and teammate Paul Ena – who also didn’t redshirt -- will be finishing with the class of ’08. Thus far this season, Herd has caught 39 passes for 530 yards and five scores.
A quarterback in high school who was converted to receiver, Herd saw all of his action on special teams as a true freshman and received very few touches on offense.
But in 2010, Herd played in all 15 games and started three games in the NCAA Championship Subdivision Playoffs. Regular season starter Ashton Gant was injured late in the season, leaving Herd with the opportunity to step up and prove himself on the playoff stage. He responded with 13 catches in three starts, good for 128 yards and a pair of scores. In a 20-19 come-from-behind victory over Delaware in the championship game, he contributed three receptions for 32 yards.
Last year, Herd and Nicholas Edwards both surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Herd passed the milestone on a 42-yard reception on EWU’s final scoring drive of the season against Idaho State and finished with 1,022 yards on 67 receptions en route to second team All-Big Sky honors and honorable mention All-America accolades.
Along with Brandon Kaufman, Eastern has a trio of 1,000 yard receivers on its roster. They all have unique skill sets that are extremely challenging to cover for opposing defenses.
And while Herd’s one-handed catch may have produced thousands of “oohs” and “aahs” in the crowd last week, to Herd and the team it was just one play in a game. But it was also another small step toward the Eagles reaching the playoffs again and ultimately, winning another national championship.
Did you have on some sort of special gloves or how did you manage to pull in that catch last Saturday?
“Nope, same ones I’ve been wearing all year. Vernon threw a great ball. I got jammed at the line a bit, but he gave me some time (to get to it) and it all worked out.”
This weekend versus UC Davis, you and all the other seniors will be honored for Senior Day. How will this game be different for you from all the other home games?
“I don’t think it’s going to be much different for me. I’m going to approach it like any other week with the same attacking mentality -- just looking to really put a strain on their defense and take it to them. I think it’s the same for the rest of the seniors. We don’t plan on this being our last home game. We’re working towards a bigger goal and we’re going to approach it like any other week.”
You never actually redshirted, so does it ever feel weird that the freshman class you came in with are mostly juniors while the seniors are a year older than you? Does it ever feel like you are part of two senior classes?
“Yes in a way. I hang out with guys from both classes. In a sense I feel like I’m in the same class with the guys I came in with even though I’m a senior now. Most of all we’re a team, so it doesn’t really make too much of a difference.”
How has your relationship as teammates and friends grown with all your fellow receivers, especially all the guys you’ve been working with for the last four years?
“It’s been great. Ashton Clark and I are roommates and we’re always hanging out together with all the receivers. Whether it’s playing video games, hanging out at someone’s house or watching film, we’re always together. We’re a pretty tight-knit group and I think that has really contributed to our success on the field.”
You started your first games as a sophomore in the NCAA Championship Subdivision Playoffs after regular season starter Ashton Gant went down with an injury. How do you think being placed into a starting role right in the middle of a playoff run helped you develop into the star player you are today?
“Wide receivers coach Junior Adams really helped me be prepared to take on the challenge. He kept me in the rotations so even if I didn’t start a game, I would still play around 50 snaps. So I think that really helped a lot. I embraced the moment, took advantage of my opportunity to start, and it’s taken me a long way since.”
Watching you play the last couple of years it always felt like yards after catch is your specialty. Is that something you work on -- to turn a 5-yard catch into a 50-yard touchdown?
“I feel like I’m a good runner with the ball in my hands. Also, the quarterbacks do a good job of getting the ball out early and give me time to make moves when the defender isn’t right on my back. Making people miss and getting some yards after the catch is definitely an area I excel in.”
In high school you played quarterback, and a couple times here at Eastern you had a chance to throw the ball, including a 25-yard touchdown strike to Nicholas Edwards last year. Does the coaching staff have specially-designed plays for you to throw the ball? Is there at least a chance that we will see you throw again sometime?
“We’ve had that play since my freshman year, and we finally ran it last year and executed it. It felt good to get a chance to throw it out there. We might see it again, I don’t know. We have some games left.”
EWU has been pretty spoiled these last couple of years to have spectacular receivers such as yourself, Brandon Kaufman and Nicholas Edwards out on the field every game. How do you guys feed off of each other to improve your games and wreak havoc for opposing defenses?
“We pull things from each other’s game. We all have things that are our strengths and things that are our weaknesses. Nick is a great preparation guy. He’s a smart player and knows a lot about football. He moves the sticks and runs great routes. Brandon is a big-time playmaker. He goes up and attacks the ball every time. We work together and we thrive off of each other’s success. When we play a complete game together we can really wreak havoc on any defense.”
How confident are you in the team and your chances to win another championship like in 2010?
“I’m pretty confident with the group we have here, but we’re going to take it one game at a time. We have one goal this week and it’s not to win a National Championship, but to beat UC Davis. We know what kind of group we have. The nation might not know, but we know what we’ve worked for all summer and all winter. It will pay off."
What has been your favorite memory here at Eastern?
“Without a doubt winning the National Championship has been my favorite memory. Playing on national television at home in the semifinals was great, but playing for a National Championship on national television and playing that amazing game in the second half was definitely my best memory here.”
What do you plan to do once you are through with Eastern?
“I’m planning to pursue playing football some more and seeing what doors open for me. If that doesn’t work out I want to finish my degree and teach high school physical education.”
Outside of football and studying, what do you like to spend your free time doing?
“I like music a lot -- I can just sit in my room and listen all day. I like hip-hop and R&B, but I like splashes of everything. I play a little bit of video games and watch some TV, but nothing too extreme.”
What would you like to say to any fan reading this?
“Keep supporting us and we’re going to keep on trying to entertain you guys and make you proud of being a part of this university. Go Eags!”