Patience & persistence paid off for UMass football running back Greg Desrosiers

  • UMass running back Greg Desrosiers Jr. (3) evades a tackle from Stony Brook’s Randy Pringle (4) earlier this season in Amherst. The Minutemen welcome Buffalo to McGuirk Alumni Stadium on Saturday at 1 p.m. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • UMass running back Greg Desrosiers, Jr. (3) outpaces Liberty safety Robert Rahimi (6) on a 53-yard touchdown run in the first quarter Saturday at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst. The Minutemen welcome Buffalo to McGuirk Alumni Stadium this weekend. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2022 2:39:06 PM

AMHERST — Greg Desrosiers broke through the Liberty defensive line after a patient stutter step. The UMass redshirt freshman running back anticipated his opening then accelerated. Two defenders met him in the hole, but the Lawrence native shrugged off the arm tackles, showing persistence. With open turf in front of him, Desrosiers activated his afterburners, torching the Flames defense en route to his first collegiate touchdown.

The 53-yard carry looked like the first breakout moment in a breakout game last weekend. He finished with 110 yards on the ground with two touchdowns and added a 42-yard scamper later in the game.

“I felt like myself, definitely. After scoring that first touchdown, I felt like, Greg's back,” Desrosiers said. “I got my confidence back, because I felt like I’ve just been hiding in the shadows.”

Injuries to tenured running back Ellis Merriweather and fellow impact transfer Tim Baldwin gave Desrosiers the opportunity he’s chased since high school. He’d largely returned kicks in the Minutemen’s first five games, carrying the ball 22 times for just 51 yards. Desrosiers eclipsed that in one carry against Liberty and kept going. The Minutemen (1-5) look to get into the win column on Saturday with a home game against Buffalo (1 p.m.).

“How about that? Good for him. He's one of the first guys that I signed when I got here, so I’m really happy for him,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “Great kid — tremendous kid. Couldn't be happier for the young man.”

Desrosiers has always been that great kid, and talented, too. He joined the Belmont Hill football team and reclassified as a junior after playing his first three high school seasons at Central Catholic in his hometown of Lawrence.

“I feel like I didn’t get the opportunity I deserved. I was working hard, and I loved Central Catholic, I had great experiences there too, in my home city, but I felt like the best opportunity for me and my family was to go to Belmont Hill,” Desrosiers said. “They treated me with love, and I made lifetime friendships, and it was awesome.”

He settled in perfectly with Belmont Hill both on and off the field.

“He’s one of those guys that had an immediate impact on the place,” Belmont Hill coach Chris Butler said. “He was such a nice kid to everyone he talked to on campus. He was a great person to have in your community.”

And on your football team. Butler and his staff utilized Desrosiers and his athleticism as often as possible. He played defensive back, receiver and running back and returned kicks and punts. He only didn’t appear on Belmont Hill’s field goal and extra point units.

“He’s one of those athletes that makes all that stuff you put on dry erase boards look a lot better,” Butler said.

His do-it-all ability extended beyond the football boundaries, too. Desrosiers played basketball and was a nationally-ranked decathlete on the track. He attracted collegiate track interest and committed to Louisville to compete in both sports.

He only played seven games in two seasons with the Cardinals and didn’t receive any carries. Desrosiers also didn’t compete with the track team, not appearing on the Cardinals rosters for either season he was in Louisville.

“Those years of my life, it was hard. I went through trials and tribulations — ups and downs,” Desrosiers said. “My confidence level was definitely down at some point. I have a great family, friends supporting me, keeping me up, and I prayed. God had my back, and preparation met opportunity.”

Desrosiers entered the transfer portal and almost immediately heard from Brown. They had a relationship from when Brown coached at Michigan and tried to bring Desrosiers there.

“I've recruited New England my entire career, so you just kind of hang on to the guys that you remember,” Brown said. “When he was available in the transfer portal, it couldn't have worked out better for us.”

Knowing he was wanted and valued brought some of the old Greg back. He knew he had an opportunity not only to contribute but to excel in front of the family and friends that lightened his dark times.

“It was definitely nice to see familiar face, hear a familiar voice,” Desrosiers said. “It was definitely a confidence booster.”

He arrived in Amherst as a speed back and kick returner but wanted to be more. The running back room embraced him. Merriweather taught Desrosiers how to block and to read the inside zone runs that are critical in offensive coordinator Steve Casula’s scheme.

“We always joke around like we’re thunder and lightning. Because of him, I feel like I’ve definitely gotten better,” said Desrosiers, also acknowledging Casula, running backs coach Damian Mincey and offensive line coach Alex Miller.

Desrosiers showed his proficiency on that opening touchdown run and took a wide turn in the end zone, extending his arms and jumping in the air. He basked in the cheers from both fans and his family. His mom, brother, sister, uncle and cousin had trekked to Amherst for the game.

“It felt like back when I was in high school, everyone coming and seeing me play and performing well,” Desrosiers said. “Them being here, it was definitely special.”

Hopefully not special in a one time only kind of way. Desrosiers wants to be a main attraction.

“I don't want this to be a lucky game. I don't want to just be a once in a lifetime or once in a blue moon,” Desrosiers said. “I want this to be consistency. I feel like I can play like this forever. As long as I get the opportunity, I’m gonna take advantage of it. This is just what I've been waiting for.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.


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