Down on one knee, awaiting the snap, the holder knows what’s coming.
Along with the ball, there will be a rush of defenders coming at him like a freight train. He yells “hike” to the center and the extra point attempt begins. He catches the snap, turns the ball laces out and suddenly what he feared was coming, arrives. Hit by a defender, his leg rolls under him awkwardly and he lies on the field in pain.
After that play against Jefferson City last week, Rock Bridge quarterback Logan Gray walked off the field under his own power. What he accomplished from there, though, is what has defined him and the Bruins’ season. Gray came back on the Bruins’ next offensive series and threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to lead the Bruins to an improbable 21-20 victory in a game in which they trailed 20-7 at halftime.
Gray has never missed a play in his two years as Bruins quarterback. His 6-foot-2-inch, 175-pound frame takes hit after hit, but he always gets up ready for the next one.
“He’s got a slight build but that kind of even accentuates his toughness a little bit more because he hasn’t missed any time,” Bruins coach A.J. Ofodile said. “And to me, that’s ultimately one of the biggest determinates of your durability and toughness and reliability is that ability to line up play after play after play and it’s hard to do in this game.”
Gray is a junior, yet he receives more letters than Santa Claus at Christmastime.
Almost every college in the nation is recruiting Gray, who said he receives five to 10 letters a day and about 50 per week. He lists Missouri, Iowa, Georgia, Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida State and Auburn as the schools he is interested in. He can recall Sept. 1 this year, the day NCAA rules say colleges can start sending recruits letters more than once a week.
“I think I got 200 letters that first day,” Gray said.
Not only does Gray receive interest by mail, but also by newer, more modern methods.
“I get text messages and e-mails too, but not as often,” Gray said. “Like once or twice a week.”
Gray said his friendship with former teammate Chase Patton, who has been through the recruiting process as a high-profile quarterback, helped him greatly. Still, Gray said, the life of a recruit has its ups and downs.
“It’s a pretty neat experience,” Gray said. “But anytime you mess up, people are going to see it.”
Gray is an unusual recruit. Because of injuries this season, Gray has played defensive back and even returned punts. Most coaches stray away from putting their starting quarterbacks at other positions, but Ofodile said it was done more out of necessity than anything else.
“We didn’t really want to have to play him on defense full-time, we wanted to do it situationally,” Ofodile said. “But you know, we’re here now, we got to win, so we’ll get our best players out there and we’ll just go with it.”
Gray said he doesn’t think much about getting hurt, though he admits it has crossed his mind. But the district playoffs against Hickman make it a minor concern.
“I just want to be out there playing football. So, if I’ve got to be back there to return punts to help us win or play defense, you know, that’s fine with me,” Gray said.
Gray also uses his athletic ability on the basketball court, where he scored 10.3 points per game last season to help the Bruins go 22-5. Opposing coaches can’t help but notice his athleticism.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Hickman coach Gregg Nesbitt said. “Anyone that starts as a 10th grader in a program as good as Rock Bridge, you’ve got to be a special player, particularly at the quarterback position. His numbers speak for themselves. He’s an outstanding athlete. Two-sports, football and basketball. He can run as well as throw. He’s the real deal.”
Even though Gray has 4.45 speed in the forty-yard dash and the ability to shake defenders, his right arm is really what makes the Bruins dangerous on offense. He throws with the strength of Brett Favre and the precision of Peyton Manning. When he throws the deep pass, it’s as if the ball is in slow motion, eventually hitting his receivers in stride. His abilities have allowed Ofodile and the Bruins to alter their offense with more deep-pass plays this season. The Bruins have been rewarded: seven of Gray’s 16 touchdowns have gone for over 40 yards.
Wide receiver Josh Conyers, who leads the team with six touchdowns, said Gray’s ability to throw the deep ball is outstanding.
“He puts it on the money,” Conyers said. “Right where only we can get it.”
Gray said off the field, he is a relaxed person who likes to have fun and joke around, but on the field, it’s a different story.
“I’m really, really competitive,” Gray said. “I’m not going to back down from anything.”
Ofodile said despite Gray’s talents, he is still going through a maturation process where he becomes more confident in himself and less emotional in his play.
“I think every young quarterback goes through those situations and kind of gets tutored into that,” Ofodile said. “And I think he’s well on his way to doing that. But ultimately that’s the next step in just continuing that growth process.”