Gray Emerges as Top Back

When Johnathan Gray entered the University of Texas as the Gatorade Player of the Year, people expected big things from him.

That comes naturally when you're the nation's career leader in high school touchdowns scored with 205. But Gray — who has yet to score a touchdown as a Longhorn — said he knew there would be an adjustment period.

"I know Joe [Bergeron], Mal [Malcolm Brown], Jeremy [Hills], D.J. [Monroe] and all the RBs have been here before me and as a freshman you have to sit back and watch," Gray said. "You have to take that back seat of learning pass-pro and learning which steps to take. There was just a learning curve for me, but that is what I am doing right now.

"My dad helped me a lot with that," Gray said. "He was like, 'You are not going to start right away as a freshman. You have some great backs in front of you and you have to watch what they do and then you'll start getting in the mix.' That is what I am doing. I am working hard and learning from those guys. They are teaching me some great things, and I am taking it from there."

Gray, who finished his Aledo career with a state-record 1,218 carries, even admitted to being nervous the first time he toted the ball for the Longhorns.

"My first carry was nerve-wracking as a freshman going into a game like that," Gray said. "I saw the chains, and we work everyday on down and distance. For me, I felt like I had to get the first down to prove that I could play. That was my first reaction, and we got the first down so I was happy and we went from there."

From there, Gray has seen his carries go up every contest. He carried the ball five times in that first game against Wyoming, seven times against New Mexico, nine times against Ole Miss, 12 times against Oklahoma State and 14 last week against West Virginia. But it all started with Gray emerging as the Longhorns' top option in the Wild formation.

"I watched film on Fozzy [Whittaker] and how he did it," Gray said. "When Coach [Mack Brown] puts you in the game and expects you to run a play to the best of your ability, you have to do it. For me as a freshman, [with the] Wildcat, I have to perform it and try to do my best at it."

But after Malcolm Brown injured his ankle against Oklahoma State, Gray has become much more than a specialized guy, and has actually led the Longhorns in rushing the past two weeks, running for 68 yards against the Cowboys and following that up with an 87-yard performance against the Mountaineers.

Is he ready to top the century mark for the first time as a Longhorn? A tough challenge awaits in the Oklahoma Sooners, but Gray said he would keep the same mindset.

"My mentality is work hard, play hard and I feel like as a team we have been practicing very well for this game," Gray said. "As a freshman, I have to know my job and what to do when I get in and just play hard every snap to get the play done."

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