Nope. It’s the lack of shuteye time. “Not being able to take naps in-between! You try to take a nap, and kind of over-sleep!”
Which is a Very Bad Thing. A drowsy Dog can be late for practice, not be alert in meetings, come up short in workouts. Any of which is a fast track to the bad side of his Mississippi State coaches.
Fortunately, Donald Gray knows by now this is just another obstacle for overcoming. If playing wide receiver in the Southeastern Conference were easy, well…it isn’t. So Gray keeps his eyes open, mind focused, and feet moving as the preseason grinds on.
“Camp kind of got me exhausted so I’m still trying to overcome it,” Gray said. “Coach G (Billy Gonzales) is still staying on me about not getting content, he continues to tell me to work hard and stay on my game. My teammates keep me up. So I feel pretty confident.”
Confident. And a little tired, too. If every Dog were honest most would say the same. Even if it meant starting semester classes, the end of training camp was welcome. The veterans of multiple preseasons with Coach Dan Mullen handled everything better of course. They knew what to expect.
The newcomers? Even a juco transfer like Gray had to learn the hard way that this, this is a whole ‘nother world. Here in week-three, lesson learned.
“It’s a part of the game. You wake up and a fresh start. If you don’t have your mind right…the mind is a terrible thing, it can overpower your body. So you have to wake and kind of get it going.” Or, grab whatever opportunities arise to put the head down.
There aren’t many, Gray has found.
“The hardest thing is meetings. I mean, we had meetings in junior college. But you’ve got so many things with meetings in the morning, right after practice you’ve got meetings again.” For a new guy in the meeting(s) room, temptation to shut the eyes even a moment must be resisted.
“So you try to scrape up any type of nap you can. If you get a two minute break? Go to sleep for those two minutes and wake back up!”
Gray appears to be awake and alert in time for his on-field hours. He has to be. Half-way through preseason Gray is in a tight fight for status at the (irony alert) ‘Z’ receiver position. That’s one of the two outside receivers. Gray’s peers on his side are Joe Morrow and Fred Brown; the trio are contending for graduated Robert Johnson’s open job.
Though, “I won’t say competition,” Gray said. “They rotate Joe and Fred. So I’m still learning from both of them. I don’t want to see it as competition, I want to see it as that’s my big brother. If he falls off I can help him, and he helps me.”
Fans find it interesting Gray, a big-reputation receiver at Copiah-Lincoln C.C., is facing such a fight for playing time. They should find it encouraging to hear Gray’s account of the non-competition.
“I enjoy it. Those guys are doing amazing things, I’m learning everything. Joe is a senior, Fred is a senior but redshirted. So we learn day to day.”
This week Brown reported he was taking first-team snaps, which Morrow had been doing the first week of camp. Gray has worked for his own turns with the #1 offense, and Coach Gonzales is giving every chance for him to get in the regular season rotation.
The route isn’t easy. Gray admits to needing an occasional word, gesture, touch from a teammate to handle it all. “I’m improving. But some days I have a setback! That’s what you have the coaches and teammates for, to help you overcome it.”
“If any of my teammates see me drop a ball and drop my head, they tell me pick your head up. They tap my chin. (Justin) Malone, I had two drops in a scrimmage and he immediately came over there. Dak (Prescott) said a couple of things. They told me just let it go, you’re going to have another chance to do what you have to do. And I did.”
Mullen will scrimmage the squad this week, the second intrasquad of August. Where the first scrimmage was to evaluate just how well the Bulldogs have absorbed installations, this time Mullen wants to see execution. Execution at a game-ready level, that is.
Meaning, Gray and club best not be caught napping. Oh, well, it’s part of the deal, Gray agreed.
“I’ll sleep after the season. I’ll have to!”