Down three points in the fourth quarter of the last game of the season, Johnathan Gray’s moment had come.
After quarterback David Ash hit him with the ball, the freshman running back bolted 15 yards for a touchdown. Several minutes later, he converted a fourth down that allowed wide receiver Marquise Goodwin to score one last touchdown to earn an Alamo Bowl victory over Oregon State. It was his first year on the team and the 13th game he’d seen action in.
Shying away from big moments was never an issue for the Aledo native. Gray, who made his football debut at age 8, set the national record with 205 touchdowns in high school.
“The most amazing thing is how durable he has been because he’s carried the ball so many times,” head coach Mack Brown said upon signing Gray. “You can see he has got vision, he has got power, he has great speed.”
He didn’t settle down once he arrived in college, either. After serving as a reserve back in the first seven games, Gray was named a starter and led the team in rushing yards by the end of the season.
His visual skills and ability to accelerate quickly earned him lauds as a freshman.
“I feel like I have to get acquainted with this game,” Gray said last season. “I feel like I’ve done that, and it shows. Pass throw is getting better. Hands, feet, vision [are] getting better each week.”
But Gray isn’t the only talented back on the roster. Both junior Malcolm Brown, who played in eight games before suffering an injury, and junior Joe Bergeron, who started six times last season, are also returning, meaning Gray will be kept on his toes.
Gray’s speed and depth of vision will also aid him in Mack Brown’s tempo offense that the team has been drilling this spring, which will be showcased at the Orange-White Scrimmage on Saturday.
“I’m excited with our offense that we’re getting the tempo thing, and we’ve got a lot of fast guys on the field getting the ball and that’s fun,” Brown said. “It’s forcing Malcolm [Brown] and Johnathan [Gray] to block better.”
The sophomore-to-be finds inspiration from a mentor who guided him from Day One: his father, a former All-American running back at Texas Tech.
“I learned a lot from him, as far as football goes,” Gray told the Austin American-Statesman. “He taught me the game and he just said when you get to college, get better and it’s up to you to decide your future.”