Detroit Country Day tailback Jonas Gray was a relative unknown around the state of Michigan heading into his sophomore campaign in 2005, but it didn't take long for him to change that. The chiseled 5-9, 208-pound youngster had spent part of his frosh season lighting up JV as a running back before getting moved up to varsity for defensive purposes. There wasn't much playing time available and running back, but Gray knew he had the talent to be the Yellow Jackets primary ball-carrier. He also knew it would only be a matter of time before he could prove it on the field.
"Sophomore year it was my show," Gray said. I went in there the first game and I knew I wasn't going to start. It kind of made me mad, so as soon as I got my chance, I went in there and I competed well. The running back that was starting over me started cramping up. That's when I knew it was time for me to take over and try to get the starting spot. I got the starting job after that."
Splitting duty as Country Day's tailback and nose guard, Gray showed off his athleticism on both sides of the ball. Despite running behind an undersized line, the bruising runner still churned out 797 yards and 15 touchdowns. It didn't take long for college programs to start taking notice.
"I started getting noticed after the second game of the season when I had already had about five touchdowns," Gray recalled. "That's when the college letters started coming in. The very first letter I ever got was from Wisconsin. It was questionnaire. I sent it in and they sent it back right away saying that they were glad that I sent it back."
Gray's excitement reached another level when he started hearing from the he describes as his childhood favorite. "I grew up a huge fan of Notre Dame," he said. "Notre dame and Michigan State...I always like their rivalry games because even though Michigan State wasn't always a good team, they always play Notre Dame hard. I like Notre dame a lot. I like their tradition. I've never been to Notre dame, but I'm going to try to make it down for some games this year. I'm going to try to go down for an unofficial visit sometime in the middle of August."
The Michigan Wolverines have shown early interest as well. Gray was in Ann Arbor annual summer camp last month and left town after turning in an impressive performance.
"The camp for me was good," Gray said. "When I first got there, for the first two days I was with the running backs that were the younger age. The third day they started switching running backs telling certain guys to go with the seniors. My third day I was finally with the seniors. There were less people and I was able to get noticed more. My forty time at the Michigan camp was a 4.53. That was my personal best. I talked to coach Jackson and he told me to send in my questionnaire and that I'd be hearing from them."
"Michigan at this point…they are number two on my list (after Notre Dame)," Gray continued. "I like the program a lot. Lloyd Carr is doing a great thing with the running backs as far as the whole offense goes. He makes sure the starting running back gets his touches, he makes sure the second string running back gets his touches, and he makes sure Chad can go what he's got to do. I like the whole program right now, especially the offense. I'm going to make it to a couple of Michigan games."
Aside from Michigan and Notre dame, Gray plans to take a closer look at Michigan State (where he camped for one day this summer), Penn State, Minnesota, and a few other programs that have already shown interest. Though still over a year away from seriously contemplating a college decision, Gray already knows the factors that will play a prominent role in his choice.
"The most significant factors will be the people they are recruiting, the and the people that are leaving…their depth chart," Gray explained. "Then, basically their coaching and the offense. How is the offense clicking? I'll probably be making my decision after my junior year probably toward the end of the summer.
In the meantime Gray is spending his time preparing for his upcoming football season with his teammates and working out on the track with former Michigan fullback Stan Edwards. Gray is a member of Edwards' Maximum Output track club and competes in the 4x100, the 100, and the 200. Like many other high-major athletes before him, Gray has enlisted Edwards' help to become a better athlete.
"Coach Stan knows how to get you to the next level," said Gray. "I know working out with him makes me faster."
GoBlueWolverine will have much more on Gray in the coming months.