Sept. 25, 2006
BERKELEY - by John Sudsbury, California Media Relations
[This story originally appeared in the September 16 issue of "Kickoff," the official California game day program]
Mention the name David Gray and most knowledgeable California fans recall the first play of Golden Bear career. That play also happened to be the first of the Jeff Tedford era at Cal - a 71-yard halfback option pass to the tall, athletic Gray for a touchdown, as the Bears opened their rout of Baylor back on Aug. 31, 2002.
However, Gray's success story is not one pass long. It is five years long; and it begins with a young high school all-star and progresses to a California graduate with a degree in African American studies.
Gray acknowledges that his background at McClymonds High School may not have prepared him for the academics at Cal, but he put forth the effort necessary to succeed.
"My first semester here I struggled," the Oakland native said. "I was on academic probation. A lot of guys don't know what to expect; I didn't have any vision of where I wanted to go, but as you grow and as you learn, that's part of the maturing process, you adapt. So I've adapted and now I'm done."
Gray has one class remaining to earn his undergraduate degree in December, much to the delight of his parents, Laronn and Brenda.
"My mom and dad are real proud," Gray said. "One of the reasons I came here is because my mother and my father wanted me to come here and be close; and it's a real good opportunity as far as after-football life with a Cal degree."
During his four years at Cal, Gray has caught 18 passes, including three touchdown throws. However, he has bounced back and forth from tight end to wide receiver while also battling multiple injuries. Instead of becoming bitter about his hard luck, he has embraced his teammates and supported the coaching staff.
"He has matured a lot," Tedford said. "He's really been through a long career here, bouncing around with positions and he's really grown as a person and he is a true team player."
"I've matured a lot since my first game," Gray said. "I guess I was a bit of a hothead, but I have learned how to be patient and be humble. I feel like I have grown a lot, matured a lot, learned a lot. I came in young, but now I'm leaving a man."
Despite his maturity, a soon-to-be-new title of college graduate and plans to head into law school after his football days are complete, it still comes back to that play, over four years ago, made by his younger self. But Gray does not mind talking about the reception, he just laughs and is thankful.
"That was Coach Tedford's first play and my first play and it got his era of to a great start, and that success has continued every single year," Gray said. "It was a long time ago, but it doesn't bother me when people bring it up; that was a highlight of my time here. A lot of people don't get to start their career off with a 71-yard TD on their first play of the game."
Not only that, but a lot of people don't get to mature as much as David Gray, growing from a young football player into a man with a University of California degree.