Consider the fact that the average playing career in the NFL is three and half seasons according to the NFL Players Association.
Also consider that during this era of free agency, player tenure with a single organization is getting shorter and shorter. At the same time, players are getting bigger, stronger and faster.
So how is it that a supposedly undersized and overlooked defensive lineman is enjoying such a long and storied career with the Baltimore Ravens?
Just how does **Kelly Gregg** do it?
"Ah man," he said with his ever-present smile on display. "It's really not that complicated. Just keep working."
Gregg has been a major contributor on the defensive line for the Ravens since 2001. He really does it all. He occupies blockers allowing the linebackers behind him to fly around all over the field. He is a tackling machine, entering this season ranked second on the Ravens' all-time tackles list with 618 stops.
Unfortunately for opposing offenses, Gregg is as motivated as ever after having to miss the entirety of last season with a knee injury.
"That was tough," Gregg said of missing the 2008 season. "I couldn't wait to come back and help out this team."
The return of Gregg to the starting lineup only bolsters what was already one of the most intimidating defensive lines in the NFL. As with many success stories, his place among the defensive elite wasn't exactly handed to him.
"It wasn't easy," Gregg said. "I just had to scrap."
Despite racking up 117 tackles as a senior at Oklahoma, many scouts thought Gregg lacked ideal height to make a significant impact in the NFL. He's an even 6-foot.
In 1999, he was drafted in the sixth round by the Cincinnati Bengals only to be cut before the final roster was set. Since then, he's done nothing but prove his skeptics wrong, becoming one of the most respected and successful defensive lineman in the NFL.
Previous to his injury last season, Gregg led all NFL interior defensive linemen in tackles from 2002-2007.
Gregg actually attributes much of his success to his short stature. "I think my size is an asset," said Gregg. "I get low and don't get stood up like a lot of tall guys."
What he may lack in height, he more than makes up for in power, leverage and technique. Surprisingly enough, it was Gregg's time spent on the wrestling mat that has helped him excel in the NFL.
"Oh it's all about wrestling," said Gregg. "Wrestling was my favorite sport and it still helps me out on the field."
It should be noted that in Oklahoma – a hotbed of high school wrestling – Gregg was a three-time state champion in the heavyweight division. Melding his wrestling experiences with his careful study of the game served him well in his first years in the league. On the practice squad with the Ravens in 2000, Gregg was fortunate enough to learn from some of Baltimore's best.
"On the practice squad I learned so much from guys like Goose [Tony Siragusa] and [Michael] McCrary," Gregg said. "McCrary was kind of undersized, but I learned how to practice and how important technique is if you want to be successful in this league."
It is not the accolades or awards driving Gregg to improve upon his already stellar career. The main reason he works so tirelessly is simply because it was what he was raised to do.
"I learned so much from my parents," said Gregg. "They just always woke up and went to work every day. They were hard workers and that's one thing that stuck with me. We all just worked and that's it."
As humble as he is, Gregg's accomplishments on the field are not lost upon his coaches and fellow teammates.
"It's huge having Kelly Gregg back," said Haloti Ngata!(/team/roster/haloti-ngata/9225ada6-37a5-4b66-9776-1b6e4df2fb50/ "Haloti Ngata") this preseason. "He does great things for us and it's great that I can still watch him on film and learn from him."
Now in his tenth season in the NFL, Gregg has no plans of slowing down.
"My goals for this season are simple," said Gregg. "I just want to work, be productive and hopefully win the big one."
It may seem like quite some time since he was just another player on the practice squad. But those are days Gregg will always remember.
"I tell this to the guys on the practice squad all the time; if I can make it, you can make it," said Gregg. "Just keep working. Work really hard. Get ready for your opportunity because it's going to come and take advantage of it."