"On the Spot" with TE Jim Dray
The Bootleg's "Emeritus" spent a few minutes after practice Thursday with fifth-year senior James Dray, who showed gritty determination and earned the admiration and awe of coaches and teammates as he worked his way back from a serious left knee injury suffered during special teams play in a thriller against TCU at Stanford Stadium that caused him to miss the entire second half of the 2007 season and struggle to be cleared for 2008. After a remarkable, grueling rehabilitation effort to get back on the field, the respected team leader overcame adversity and managed to start five games and catch two passes last year...each for a touchdown! He's now reasonably repaired and ready to roll.
On-Field, Post-Practice Interview on Thursday, August 13, 2009
The Bootleg: We are here with fifth-year senior TE Jim Dray who came to Stanford from powerhouse Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey (a quick gratuitous plug in case any more big, tough Bergen Catholic guys want to head west!) Jim, you came back from a pretty serious injury, a long way back - how would you describe the rehabilitation process, was it tougher than you thought it would be?
Jim Dray: Well, it was really pretty much what I thought it was going to be. The surgeons and the doctors, the strength staff and the rehabilitation staff, they had a great plan for me, I had to just stick to follow their plan and it was pretty easy [No, it wasn't!].
TB: How have you changed physically over the last five years?
JD: When I got here I was a little underdeveloped. I was kind of weak. It was tough for me to play on the line and block the d-ends, sometimes the tackles.
TB: How can we measure that as far as size, strength?
JD: When I got here I was probably 240 at most and during the season I probably dropped down to 235, but last season and this season I am going to be able to stay up at 255. That will definitely give me a better chance to be a better blocker, stay on the line.
TB: You can still get out in the patterns, get downfield at 255?
JD: Oh, definitely.
TB: As a tight end do you consider yourself more a member of the offensive line of a part of the receiving corps?
JD: I think I can straddle both fences, I think I can block and catch pretty well.
TB: Is there one area in which you feel you are well ahead of than the other?
JD: I would say I am a little further ahead on run-blocking. The more I get my legs back underneath me, from the surgery, I think my running routes and pass game will be okay.
TB: Will it be possible to maintain your sterling 1:1 touchdown-to-reception ratio this year?
JD: (Smiling) Sure, we'll see if I can do it!
TB: Do you think of yourself as a "red zone" guy? Is there a part of the field where you are most effective?
JD: I don't think so. My first touchdown last year up at Washington. Tavita [QB Tavita Pritchard] made a great throw and it just happened to work out for me. Really whatever route the coaches tell us, that's what we run.
TB: Now, tight end is a bit different from the other positions, you aren't really ever going to be going with just one? There is always going to be competition, but we aren't really wanting to say, "we have one starter", are we?
JD: We definitely want to bring something to the table. On specific plays, to put the guy in who has the best chance to be successful at that play.
TB: When did you know you were going to be a tight end as opposed to any other position? Were you a QB as a youngster?
JD: I played running back all the way up to my sophomore year in high school. By then I was just too tall. It was determined by my height, they switched me over to tight end.
TB: Over the years, Stanford has had about four or five tight ends from the state of New Jersey, what is with that?
JD: Hey, Jersey's got a lot of talent, that's really all I can say.
TB: Do you have some unfinished business? unless there is some miracle eligibility ruling, this will be your last year here. You are coming off the injury, you had to miss some games, is there a heightened sense of urgency?
JD: I think there is just a sense of urgency to help the team win. If I do my job and everyone around me does their job, then we win, then everything else will take care of itself.
TB: You are now back in action, ready to go - you must have caught a ton of balls in the off season...
JD: Yeah, we have been working hard, all the skill guys on offense for sure, we've been catching a lot of balls, working with the help of Coach Obee*. We've made a lot of gains, to be sure. We are really excited to be out here.
* = Former Oregon Duck and Chicago Bears wide receiver and punt returner Terry Obee, who was a teammate of Coach Harbaugh in Chicago, is new to the Stanford strength and conditioning program staff and was able to be involved with the team throughout summer workouts.
TB: 6'8" freshman TE Levine Toilolo is coming back from a foot injury and obviously isn't out there, but you have some young guys who have come to play. Who has opened your eyes? We know, probably "all of them"...
JD: Just like with the older three guys, the younger three guys all bring something different to the table, they're all "athletic", they may have to mature a bit physically, but they are ready to do the job.
TB: Are you being viewed as the sage old veteran, taking on a mentor role - are they calling you "Pops" or anything like that?
JD: (Laughing) No, no, we try to help as much as we can, but there's nothing like that!
TB: Because, what are you, all of 22? You are one of the "old guys" now?
JD: It's crazy. I remember being one of the youngest guys, looking at the fifth-year seniors when I got here. So it's a little bit different for sure.
TB: You have visions of playing on after your college career?
JD: Absolutely, I like to think that is the dream of everyone that is out here. Right now we can't really think about that - as long as we win - that will take care of itself. We just have to win [and we just have to love the focus!].
TB: Are you taking a heavy academic load this quarter, or are you carrying a lighter load this fall?
JD: A lighter load, for sure, a couple of solid courses. I planned it out nicely, I like to think.
TB: Are you giving the young guys helpful tips on time management, that has to be the hardest adjustment, no?
JD: Certainly, trying to shuffle summer school, practice schedules, meeting times, we try to guide them in the right direction, but they'll get the hang of it.
TB: Your family will be heading west for games this year?
JD: Yeah, my parents make it out to every game, my siblings here and there. We're from the East Coast, so Wake Forest is an easy trip, so we are really excited about that one.
TB: Thanks for your time and best of luck against the Cougars.
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