Worried about Johnathan Gray transitioning to college game? Whether or not he has the drive and desire to be the best, to succeed at the highest level at the highest level of collegiate football?
If you are, no doubt you are in the extreme minority of Texas fans, but try this on for size. On Friday morning, Gray showed up at the Aledo facility to work out only hours after making his commitment to Texas public in the early minutes of his 18th birthday. Head coach Tim Buchanan told Gray that he could sit out of the morning session to prepare for his press conference around 9 am. Gray declined.
Not one to go half-speed through the work out despite being given the out by his coach, Gray cracked off a blazing hand-timed 4.29 40. Hand-timed, but still -- the stuff of legends.
Point being, Gray isn't a five-star recruit because of natural skill alone. He works hard to maximize that talent, too, which bodes well for him having success when he dons the burnt orange and white in roughly 16 months that can't come quickly enough for the majority of the Longhorn fanbase.
Until then, another five-star running back, 2011 commit Malcolm Brown, will have to suffice. Turns out, though, that Brown may be just as excited as the average Texas fan to get Gray onto campus. Standing on the field at Jerryworld before their own state championship game, Brown and his head coach at Cibolo Steele, Mike Jinks, watched as Gray ripped off a state-record eight touchdowns in Aledo's victory over La Marque.
Following Gray's commitment, Jinks recalled the words of his own superstar during the historic performance:
I remember him saying, "Wouldn't it be awesome if we got a chance to be in the same backfield at Texas?" I told him, "I tell you what, if there's anything you can do to help him get there, I'd do it if I were you."
It's not clear just how much Brown did to facilitate Gray's pledge, but the two did have a chance to talk while attending a Texas spring practice and again at the spring game and most observers predict a mutually-beneficial pairing.
Count Jinks in that group:
It's going to work out well for both of them. Each of them will have a more successful career because of the other. No doubt, you need two guys back there.
Brenham head coach Glen West, too, who cited the combination of Eric Dickerson andat SMU back in the 1980s.
Other more recent backfield duos spring quickly to the mind -- Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram at Alabama, Reggie Bush and LenDale White at USC, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams at Auburn, Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber at Minnesota. The list goes on and on
Given his pledge, Gray is buying into the combination of he and Brown as well:
I think we'll do great. He's a dominant back and I'm a dominant back. You just put two and two together, we'll make each other better and just try to win a national championship.
Heartening comments, certainly, but they don't get to the root of why Gray was sitting in the Aledo facility last Friday morning throwing his horns up.
The answer to that may sound like a cliche for Longhorn recruitniks: the family atmosphere fostered byand his staff, which Buchanan said Gray kept comparing to the atmosphere at Aledo.
I chose Texas because I feel they are part of my family. Just going up there and talking to the coaches, going around to the facilities, the atmosphere that they have and the type of players they recruit it's just overwhelming. I felt like that's where I wanted to go and that's my home.
Like Brenham teammates Tim Cole and Malcom Brown, the spring game atmosphere with all the commits from the 2012 class in attendance helped Gray experience that family feeling and put Texas over the top.
The commitments of the two Brenham stars may have even helped solidify Gray's desire to pledge to Texas. During his press conference -- which can be seen at ESPN -- Gray mentioned that he made his decision when he "saw all the players I've played with and against" at the spring game, calling them "a great group of players and just good people all around."
As his opponents in the 2009 state title game against Brenham, Cole and Brown definitely fall into the category of players Gray has gone against during his career. Gray also faced off against 2011 Texas commit Taylor Doyle last September in a match-up of defending 4A champs at Lake Travis and has no doubt faced other commits during 7-on-7, at camps, and even in track.
For Longhorn running backs coach Major Applewhite, landing Gray a year after proving to skeptics that he could land a high-profile recruit at a position he never played is even more conclusive evidence that the best backs in Texas are willing to play for him.
Applewhite was in attendance at the press conference and James Gray revealed that the honesty of the former Texas quarterback stood out to him during the process, saying that despite his son's prodigious talent, Applewhite never made any promises of playing time in an effort to lure the star back to Austin.
Buchanan called the relationship between Applewhite and Gray "great" and said that Mack Brown and Applewhite staying through the coaching changes "sealed the deal for Johnathan."
Gray chose Texas over a number of offers from around the country, but eventually narrowed his list down to Texas, TCU, and Texas A&M. At the press conference, Gray compared calling the other coaches to "breaking up with your girlfriend."
"Coach Sherman, coach Patterson: I'm sorry, it's not you, it's me. You're great, really, it's just that there's another coach, another school. We have good chemistry."
That coach is Mack Brown and that school is Texas.