Gray Taking Care of the Root Before the Fruit

July 9, 2017
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Notre Dame has recruited many prospects who have fathers with a background in professional sports.
 
Jeremiah Gray could very well be the next as the 2019 North Carolina defensive back is the son of NFL safety Derwin Gray, who played at BYU before landing with the Colts and Panthers.
 
The 6-foot-1, 198-pounder from Charlotte Christian comes off as one of the more mature kids in his class and part of that goes to the way he was raised. The elder Gray, a pastor at Transformation Church in Charlotte, has made sure to teach his son lessons off the field and it has led to success on the field.
 
“One of the things I’ve talked to him about is to take care of the root and then enjoy the fruit,” Mr. Gray said. “Focus on your attitude, effort and your intelligence, then you can enjoy the byproduct of how you cultivate your root.
 
“His primary heartbeat is how can he be the best possible football player for Charlotte Christian. I think in today’s culture, people want the fruit without the root work. He’s done a really good job of making that philosophy his own now.”
 
Irish Sports Daily Gray with his father and mother.
It’s not just Gray’s NFL background and life lessons, though. Gray’s mother ran track at BYU and his sister was successful at cheerleading.
 
“His mother was a Division-I track athlete at BYU and his sister, Presley, was an All-American cheerleader, so he’s grown up around an athletic home of people who have accomplished a lot,” explained Gray.
 
“We knew from an early age that he would have a shot, but it wasn’t until he decided to make it his own. I do think Jeremiah being around NFL players and going with me when I would do chapels for NFL teams – he’s been around NFL players since he could walk and a lot of NFL players attend our church. He’s grown up around those types of men.”
 
The maturity is noticeable in just speaking with Gray, but his presence on the field has been catching the eye of college coaches across the country. However, the good news for the three-star prospect is he is just getting started.
 
“There are kids in his class who have full beards, but when you look at his face, you see a young kid,” Gray said. “Even the way some of his peers walk and carry their bodies, as someone such as myself that have been in an NFL locker room, you see guys now that are going to be what they are going to be like in college.
 
“The jump from just November to now, how much bigger, faster, and stronger he has got is noticeable. In February, he could power clean 185 pounds and now he can do 260 pounds. He has put on about 10 pounds of lean muscle and he has gotten taller. He ran a 4.64 40 at Duke at basically 6-foot-1, 200 pounds. His shuttle is at 4.16, and his broad jump is nearly 10 feet.
 
“His best days are way ahead of him. What you see today is nowhere near what he will be like by the time he steps on a campus as a freshman. Some kids’ biological clocks start earlier and they are tapped out by the time they arrive as a freshman.”
 
Football came easily to Gray as a youngster. In flag football, Gray would run circles around the competition as the biggest and fastest player on the field.
 
The ability to dominate the competition changed just as Gray was about to enter middle school. 
 
“In fifth grade, his shoe size went to about 11.5, and when he was in eighth grade, he had a 14 shoe, and his arms and legs were everywhere,” laughed Gray. “He outgrew his body with his arms and legs. It took him some time to grow back into his body.”
 
Gray struggled with coordination and simply not being the player he was prior, but his father was there to challenge and explain there was light at the end of the tunnel. 
 
“It was a frustrating time for him,” stated Gray. “He was wondering why he couldn’t do this and that. I told him developmentally God had created him to be long, tall and he would be fast, explosive, and athletic, but it would take a few years for his body to catch up. When it does, he would be designed to be an alpha predator to pick off passes and close down lanes.
 
“I asked him if he was ready to work hard when the reward was not immediate. We talked about that in middle school because there was a lot of pressure when your dad played in the NFL.”
 
The Charlotte Christian star beat the awkward phase and grew into a defensive back who will be playing on Saturdays as BYU, East Carolina, Penn State, Purdue, South Carolina, and Wake Forest have extended offers.
 
Gray remembers the moment when he told his son he had received his first offer and it’s a moment neither will soon forget.
 
“There is something that happens when you become a parent that there are areas in your heart that come alive you didn’t even know existed,” Gray said. “You have a love for your kids that you want them to be the very best they can be.
 
“It was January 25, 2016, during his second semester of his freshman year and Kalani Sitake, the new head coach of BYU, offered him. Of course, I am a BYU alumnus and I remember when I told him BYU offered him. He just melted. I’ll never forget the look on his face.
 
“When we were talking about, he goes, ‘Dad, I get what you’re saying.’ I remember him saying, ‘Hard work, works.’”
 
The offer from Wake Forest was another memorable one with head coach Dave Clawson going against his own philosophy to offer Gray.
 
“The summer going into his sophomore year we went to a Wake Forest camp,” recalled Gray. “My thing is whenever you can work with Division-I coaches and compete; you’re going to get better. He went to the camp and he showed out. You could just see his confidence rising.
 
“After the camp, Coach Clawson told us they didn’t typically offer players as young as Jeremiah, but he was going to offer him. That was another pivotal moment of where God was doing some behind the scene things. Jeremiah took the talent God gave him and competed with older kids.”
 
Irish Sports Daily Gray with Todd Lyght
Gray and his father made a trip to South Bend last month to connect with defensive coordinator Mike Elko, but also to share a few unexpected father-son moments.
 
“One of the reasons I signed with BYU was because they told me I would go to South Bend my senior year and play against Notre Dame,” Gray explained. “Rick Mirer, Jerome Bettis and several other guys ended up playing in the NFL with me.
 
“The first half, we were only down by three, but the second half, Lou Holtz put them in two tight end-sets with Bettis and they physically pounded us. They ended up winning the game, but personally, I had one of the best games of my career.
 
“Back in my era, it’s like, ‘Wow, I got to play here.’ Now, on a trip with my son, as he is making decisions and processing environments, it’s pretty cool to watch.”
 
Gray calls the ability to see his son go through the recruiting process “a double blessing” because of moments they experienced at Notre Dame.
 
“We were walking down a hall, and all the All-American players were there. It was cool to share some stories of guys I played against – guys like Todd Lyght and I am Bryant Young’s pastor.
 
“It’s a double-blessing because not only do I get to see Jeremiah’s hard work pay off, but I get to re-live some of those moments with him. It’s really cool.” 


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