Category: Big 12 Published on Monday, 07 May 2012 14:00 Written by Travis Ray (SuckMyTake) Hits: 1489
But this kid refuses to rely on his natural talent.
When Johnathan indicated to his dad in sixth grade that he wanted to be great in football, James tried to help him by starting him on 5:45 am workouts. Those would continue through high school.
"I knew if I was getting him up at 5:45, he would go to bed on time," James says laughing.
Aledo Head Coach, Mike Buchanan, who won three straight state Class 4A titles with Gray as Gray ran for 800-plus yards and 13 touchdowns in those three games, saw that desire and drive as a freshman.
"When Johnathan came out as a ninth-grader, I started him out on the freshman team," Buchanan said. "But he was a much better player than all the other freshmen, so we put him on the junior varsity.
"Johnathan wanted to be on the varsity. The JV played on Thursday nights, and I looked out there one Wednesday, after we finished our practice, and Johnathan was doing 100-yard sprints, dragging a weighted sled with about 100 pounds on it, in the ninth grade, the day before a game.
"Most kids won't drag a sled over the summer, much less a day before a game. I actually had to talk to Johnathan about not training quite as hard the day before a game and trying to save his legs as opposed to working really hard the day before."
Buchanan said Gray "didn't have great hands and had some trouble with fumbling the football" as a freshman at Aledo.
"So I took a football and filled it up halfway full of water. When you carry a ball like that, and the water is sloshing around, it feels like someone is tugging on it all the time.
"I told Johnathan, 'You need to carry that ball every time we run, every time we condition.'
"And any time we got ready to condition, Johnathan would go and find a water ball to run with. All the other kids were trying to get in line without a water ball, and Johnathan was always looking for one, even when I'd forget to bring them out. He knew he needed to improve his ball security.
"He knew he needed to improve on catching. As a ninth-grader, he had only two receptions and probably dropped seven or eight passes. As a sophomore, I think he had about 30 receptions for about 600 yards."
One of Gray's strengths now is catching the football.
Gray's numbers are staggering coming out of Aledo.
In addition to the 13 rushing touchdowns in three state title games, including eight as a junior against La Marque ? In addition to the 10,890 rushing yards and national record 205 rushing touchdowns, Gray was a humble, thoughtful kid at Aledo.
When a sophomore at Aledo named Leah Van was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, Buchanan thought it would be nice to give her a football signed by her state champion high school team.
|Gray reached out to a fellow student with leukemia.|
Gray then volunteered to take the ball to Leah. He ended up talking to her for more than an hour in her hospital room. Buchanan found out much later from Leah's mother that Gray kept returning to the hospital throughout Leah's six months of treatment. Now, Leah, who is a year younger than Gray, is in remission.
"I didn't know it was happening," Buchanan said. "It wasn't like he was going to see her and telling people. He was just doing it. And that's the type of kid he is.
"It was nothing to have Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, LSU, Auburn, Texas, Texas A&M all here watching him during spring football or fall," Buchanan said. "Someone from one of those schools was here watching him every week."
Buchanan said he helped Johnathan narrow his choices from 30 schools his junior year.
"In February of his junior year, he was still looking at 30 different schools. He said, 'I'm going to try to get it down to 15 by spring break.' I said, 'How about five? Pick the school and take football out. Would you go to a school if football was not in the equation?'
"I left it that. He came back the next week and narrowed it to five. The next week he narrowed it to three - Texas, TCU and Texas A&M.
"He really liked Texas A&M's running game. He liked TCU because it was close to home. But he said Texas reminded him of a big Aledo in terms of family atmosphere."
Read more at Orangebloods.com for the complete, free, story from Chip Brown