In a ceremony at Aledo High School on Wednesday, 2012 Texas commit Johnathan Gray was presented his honorary Under Armour game jersey as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour that will make its way to DeSoto on Thursday to fete fellow Texas commits Bryson Echols and Curtis Riser.
Gray, the top-ranked running back in the country by ESPNU and fifth-ranked player overall, is in the midst of another record-breaking season at Aledo, having already broken Texas running back Traylon Shead's mark for career touchdowns in the state of Texas, as well as the state scoring record.
On Tuesday, Gray had the opportunity to spend some time with another record-breaking running back, Kenneth Hall, the fabled "Sugar Land Express" who set 17 national rushing and scoring records during his own prep years now some time in the past.
It was a visit that had a strong impact on the young running back:
It meant a lot to me. For someone like him, who is a legend in Texas and the nation, to drive up here to talk to me and the team, it was a blessing.
He is a really cool guy. He enjoys seeing kids progress, even if it means breaking his records. He wants us to succeed. He wants more for the kids.
Though Gray is busy tearing down state records, there is one record that will be difficult for Gray to reach before his high school career ends and that is Hall's state and national record for rushing yards -- 11,232. The star Bearkat back would have to average 282 yards per game through the state finals to break the record, a tall order even for the prolific Gray.
Hall got his first look at Gray last season during yet another record-breaking night for Gray at the state championship game against LaMarque. Needless to say, he came away impressed:
I saw the first few touchdowns and thought, 'I have to keep watching this whole thing. Eight touchdowns later, I said: 'Good Lord, this player is just a junior.
You can't teach what he has. You can't coach that. You can help players like that improve, but he's just a natural.
A natural, indeed. The Euclidian Terrorist was born to blow up angles.
At the ceremony, Gray reflected on being one of 90 players nationally invited to participate in the fifth iteration of the Under Armour All-American game ($) held January 5th in Orlando, which is quickly surpassing the US Army All-American game in prestige:
It's an honor to be privileged enough to play in the Under Armour game. With the teammates I have and the family I have and all the support, there's no telling how high I can go. I'm just blessed to be here and in this position. I couldn't do it without my team and my family. I'm honored.
For his head coach, Tim Buchanan, Gray is much more than simply a talented running back on the field:
All I want to say about John is he is a great running back. His teammates and everyone will attest to that. But as good a running back as he is, he's a better kid. Thanks to James and Tonya, they turned out a great kid and hopefully he'll keep with that same personality through high school and through college and wherever he goes from there. Thanks Johnathan.
Still skeptical? Check out this story from Sports Illustrated several weeks ago.
On the field, though, Gray will continue his pursuit of Hall's record for career rushing yardage when Aledo takes on Birdville Thursday night at 7 pm CST on ESPNU.