"I'm going to keep calling until I do talk to some coaches," Gray stated.
Last weekend, Joel Gray got his invitation to Notre Dame's junior day, but the 6-foot-6, 275-pound tackle from Lewisville, Texas can't make it up on Feb. 24, on such short notice. The Hebron High standout who already has a scholarship offer from Texas Tech, plans to eventually set foot on the Irish campus.
"I plan on getting out to Notre Dame sometime."
Hebron head coach Brian Brazil said a coach from Notre Dame was out last week to pick up film.
"Notre Dame is always a University, when you think of college football, you think of the big games Notre Dame has played in," Gray explained. "The tradition they have, and they aren't in a conference. They play the hardest games no matter what. In order to be the best, you have to beat the best, and they play the best teams around the nation and compete every year. That is something I really respect about them."
Besides Texas Tech and Notre Dame, Gray is hearing from places like Texas, Texas A&M, Florida, Virginia and Stanford.
"Obviously, academics are a really big thing to me," Gray said of what he is looking for in a school. He has a GPA of 3.35. "The coaches are a really big thing to me. You're going to be with them for quite a long time. You have to have a good relationship with them. Academics and coaches are one and two, facilities is probably number three.
Gray started as a sophomore, and the college interest started to roll in. According to Brazil, Gray graded out the best that season among an offensive line that returned three starters from a state championship team the year before.
Gray was excited for a big junior year, but things didn't start out as planned. During spring ball, he tore his ACL, causing him to miss the first three games of the season the next fall.
"It wasn't even a full-contact drill," Gray said. "It was a pass-protection drill working on technique. I twisted on it weird and it tore.
"I felt a pop. I got up and walked away, I didn't think it would be that bad. I knew people that tore their ACL, and they couldn't walk away. But I heard a pop and knew it wasn't good. I tried not to believe it, but I knew it happened."
Gray might have been able to play on the injury earlier, but all parties involved decided to take precautionary measures.
Returning for District play, Gray helped his team to an 11-3 record, and advance four rounds deep into the state playoffs. He was named second-team All-State.
"I practiced for two-and-half weeks before I played, so I got a lot of the uncomfortable feelings out in practice," Gray explained. "My first game, I was nervous, but I didn't hesitate or anything, because I knew if I didn't hesitate it would work out well. And I did everything I could, and it did work out well."
Seems to have, with all the college interest.
"He is a physical aggressive kid," Brazil said. "Takes no prisoners and all that. Very classy kid. He'll knock you on your butt, and when the play is over, he'll pick you up. When the ball is snapped he'll do anything he can to destroy you. That's how he plays.
"To me what made him really standout was the time he wasn't there with his knee injury. He was there every day of the summer. The spring after he got his surgery, he was there everyday he could be there. Just a great encourager to his teammates. To me that really shows what a leader is.
"He is very hard on himself," Brazil continued. "He expects to be the best. The thing I like about him, he is a captain, a returning starter, he allows you to coach him. You can get in his grill and chew him out and demand more, and he'll try and give you more. He wants to be the best, and be able to choose where he wants to go to school.
Gray, who can bench press 285 pounds and doesn't have his squat where he wants it because of the rehab, said he could commit at any time. Just whenever it feels right. Distance he stated will not be a factor.
"Really, it doesn't matter to me to be honest," Gray said. "I'm going to try and visit places far away such as Notre Dame. I'm going to try and find the place best for me. If that's out at Notre Dame, it doesn't really matter."
Instead of Notre Dame's junior day, Gray will attend ones at Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech.