One of the hottest and most gripping recruiting stories Cardinalmaniacs™ have followed in this class has been that of James Dray, the standout tight end from Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey. Stanford was one of the first three schools to offer the two-way athlete early last spring, but he has amassed a long list of scholarship suitors since, making the field crowded and the odds appear increasingly long to land him on The Farm. It was with great celebration Sunday night that fans learned Dray had committed that day to Walt Harris, bringing Scout.com's #13 tight end out West.
Dray and parents with Walt Harris
"The recruits were meeting individually with Coach Harris in a hotel meeting room," Dray describes of the Sunday exit interviews with the Cardinal coach. "He was telling me how great Stanford was - the opportunity with both the academics and how he uses tight ends. I told him right then, 'I am ready to commit, Coach.' He jumped out of his chair, clapped and shook my hand. You could tell he was really excited."
For that news to come to Harris on Sunday was an obvious surprise, and college football fans across the nation were stunned to hear of it that night when Scout.com first broke the report. Dray had taken only one of his five official visits before this past weekend's trip out West, and he was scheduled to still visit Notre Dame plus two out of three suitors: Tennessee, Florida State and Iowa. January was supposed to be a busy and active time in this recruitment, with fortunes still to be forged. For the 6'5" athlete to pull the trigger, still on campus, so early in the month was a surprise to many observers. Dray surprised even himself with the timing, but he says ultimately this was something he knew he would do.
"Stanford has been my favorite all along," the recruit reveals. "I just kept that to myself."
One reason Dray kept quiet on his Cardinal lean these last many months is the uncertainty of his admissions chances at Stanford. The student-athlete did gain acceptance, however, which was his biggest personal hurdle in this recruiting process.
"A lot of kids don't get in," he explains. "There are a lot with better grades and better numbers who don't make it in, for whatever reason. Getting admitted to Stanford was a big accomplishment for me. And it was just something I couldn't pass up."
Where would Dray likely have committed had he not passed muster with Stanford's admissions? "Either Notre Dame or Boston College," he answers.
Fans of the Irish would like to have at least had their crack at the talented tight end, and Dray had every intention of visiting the school later this month. But he says that as soon as Thursday night when he checked into his hotel near Stanford's campus, he felt an excitement that started to change his mind about the remainder of his January plans. By the end of Friday, he says he knew he would commit to the Cardinal during the weekend.
Dray with A.J. Christoff
"The night I got there, I had this feeling that this was the place," Dray details. "I was expecting to take visits afterward, but it was a combination of everything I saw and felt during the weekend: the school, the new coaching staff, the athletics - you can't put it on one thing."
"Alex Fletcher was my host, and he got me really excited. The time with Alex and hanging out with the guys on Friday did it," the New Jersey native continues. "He's from the East Coast and knows what it's like back there. He talked about what Stanford had to offer and said it's really an easy decision once you think about it. He's right."
Another important man with whom Dray talked last weekend was Ben McAdoo, the new Stanford tight ends and offensive tackles coach. McAdoo was the newest of the new hires on Harris' staff and had just arrived on campus before the visit festivities began.
"Coach Harris and I had talked before, and I've seen what he does with tight ends on TV. It was [McAdoo's] first visit to Stanford, so we were in the same boat.," the tight end comments on his future position coach. "He's a young coach, but I think that's a positive. And he comes from the New Orleans Saints - he's been on the highest level. We'll be learning together about Stanford this next year."
James Dray is a four-star standout recruit who elevates this 2005 Stanford recruiting class with his commitment. In addition to being ranked by Scout.com as the #13 tight end in America, he is also #9 in a deep senior class in New Jersey and #31 on Scout.com's Eastern region Hot 100.
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