KINGSTON, R.I. – May 14, 2008 – As a boy, Damien Gresko dreamed of playing football in front of 100,000 fans at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium. Instead, the Huntingdon, Pa. resident came to the University of Rhode Island in 2004, where he played for a team that was often exciting and competitive, but lacking in victories.
So, when he receives his degree in accounting and finance on May 18th, will he harbor any regrets?
“Four years later, I realize this is the best decision I ever made,” he told fellow dean’s list student-athletes at a reception held earlier this year. “I made lifelong friends, and I urge all of you to take advantage of all of the opportunities made available to you.”
Gresko, who has a 3.97 grade point average and who was a dean’s list honoree for every semester of his time at URI, will leave the University with a load of awards.
Ranked the top student in the College of Business Administration, he garnered the Grace B. Sherrer Award in 2007, presented by the URI Honors Program to the top three seniors and top three underclassmen in business; the Peter M. Galanti Outstanding Junior Award in 2007, given to the top two juniors in the College of Business Administration and the President’s Perfect Performer Scholarship in 2005, presented to freshmen who maintain a perfect 4.0 in their first year of study.
He also received the Vangermeersch Award, presented to the top accounting graduate and the Elizabeth Holmes Award, given to the top graduating male and female student-athletes for academic and athletic excellence.
In addition, he was named an ESPN The Magazine Second-Team Academic All-American in December 2006 and 2007, the A.A. Savastano Scholar-Athlete for three straight years and Atlantic 10 Academic All-Conference for three seasons.
After suffering two serious knee injuries in high school, Gresko was fortunate that he had a chance to play college football at all. Just two days before his second injury, he received a call from former URI head football coach Tim Stowers offering him a chance to play in Kingston. Even when the injury kept him from playing a single down his senior year of high school, Stowers remained committed to Gresko.
“I think the world of coach Stowers because he gave me a chance when no one else would,” said Gresko who was voted team captain last season. “He was always trying to build us up as people.”
Gresko didn’t see much action his freshman year so the offensive lineman focused on getting a jump on his studies. “I wanted to start strong, so I worked hard in the classroom,” he said.
As a sophomore, Gresko became a starter on the offensive line, and at 250 pounds, was probably one of the smallest in the Atlantic 10. “I played against guys who are now in the NFL or the Canadian Football League, and I was proud that I competed well.”
Outside of football, Gresko said was influenced by some great people at URI, including Business Dean Mark Higgins, who had him in accounting class. “Dean Higgins was like my personal adviser when it came to jobs, internships and classes.”
Through the business college, he completed an accounting internship at Horan, Golden, & Co. Ltd. in Wakefield and an assurance internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, in Boston.
In fact, the PricewaterhouseCoopers internship led to a job offer, which he turned down. Instead, he has a summer internship with the St. Petersburg, Fla. office of Raymond James, a diversified financial services holding company. He will work as an investment banking analyst in its real estate group. “This should lead to a full-time job,” he said.
URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography