When junior tight end James Dray earned MVP honors in the state championship game this past fall, he sent out a signal to college coaches across the nation that he was a premier talent at a premier program. Bergen Catholic High School churns out Division I football players every year, and this year is no exception with the likes of Brian Cushing, Dan Larkin and Wolver Jean-Pierre in the 2005 class. Dray put forth the biggest show in Bergen's conclusion to the 2003 season, recording six receptions for 134 yards and one touchdown on offense - all in the first half. On defense he registered nine tackles (including one sack) and two interceptions, while also forcing a fumble.
For the season the 6'5" athlete caught 30 passes for 456 yards and four touchdowns at tight end, while also dazzling as a blocker. At outside linebacker Dray has racked up 181 total tackles (71 solo) the past two seasons, with 18 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. He has also snared five interceptions in pass coverage. For his efforts and performances, the two-way standout was named First Team All-County and First Team All-North Jersey.
"We changed the offense and used the tight end a lot more this year. Next year my role should be even bigger in the offense," Dray describes. "I can block. I can run and stretch the field. And I have good hands. The only thing lacking has been size, and I'm working on getting a lot bigger this off-season."
Indeed, the junior athlete from New Jersey weighed in at 210 pounds during his junior season, but he is already up to 230 pounds today. Dray says he is aiming for 240 pounds by the start of his senior year, while at the same time trying to get faster. He is working out muscles in his lower body he never pushed before, and that could have him running faster this spring when he hits the combine circuit. Last year he ran a 4.6 40.
The TE/OLB will be busy soon with the May evaluation period, with college coaches coming to see him at Bergen Catholic as well as at an array of combines. Two of the more noteworthy camps to watch for Dray the first half of the month are the Elite College Combine (5/5) at the Meadowlands and the Nike Camp (5/15) at Penn State.
But six schools have already seen enough on film and in person to step forward with scholarship offers. Dray currently holds full rides from Stanford, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Rutgers and Connecticut. In addition to those schools, the New Jersey recruit has strong mutual interest with Notre Dame, Michigan State and Virginia. That makes for a long school list, and unfortunately Dray is not easily giving up who are his favorites within that top nine... despite my barrage of questions.
"I really don't know right now," the careful recruit maintains. "I haven't seen most of these schools, and it wouldn't be fair to make statements about them before I do."
Dray says that he has a lot of visits he plans on taking this spring and summer, though none are set in stone at this time. He lists Stanford, Penn State, Virginia, Notre Dame, Rutgers and possibly Michigan State as campuses he intends to visit in the coming months. Many of those schools are local or regional, but an unofficial visit out to the West Coast would be a distant trek that indicates more than passing interest. Indeed, Dray offers some excited comments when discussing the Cardinal as one of his college options.
"Stanford is definitely in my top two or three," the Jersey junior allows. "I love California - I have an aunt in San Marino. Coach [Bill] Cubit made the campus sound great, and I can't wait to see it. Of course, I already knew that Stanford is a great school with a top education."
The tight end recruit furthermore says that distance is not a top concern when he considers the various factors that will determine his school choice.
"Of the criteria for my college decision, education is number one. Number two is the reputation of the football program. And number three is how early I can play there, and where I'll play," Dray discloses. "Distance doesn't play a factor at all. I love California, and my parents don't worry about the distance either. My dad travels out there on business all the time."
With six offers in hand and aggressive unofficial visit plans in his mind, it comes as no surprise that James Dray would like to concluded his college recruitment earlier rather than later.
"I'd like to make a quick decision if I can - just so I don't have to worry about my senior year and have that concern get in the way of my senior season," the Bergen Catholic talent tells us. "But I can't stop it [in the fall] if I'm unable to make a decision before my senior season. If that happens, I'll just have to deal with it."
Dray carries a 3.6 GPA and just received a 1070 on his first try at the SAT, with plans to retake the standardized test in June. He is being recruited by just about all the schools on his list as a tight end, though a couple are talking defense or both sides of the ball. Stanford has also offered Bergen teammate Brian Cushing, with an emphasis on defense for the 6'3" linebacker/safety/receiver.
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