A.J. Gray’s parents were both athletes in their day, though perhaps not to their son’s extent. His mother Anne played high school basketball and softball. His father Allen played basketball and ran track at West Virginia State, an NAIA school.
“My proudest moment was riding in a van with a Yellow Jacket painted on the side,” Allen Gray said.
A.J., a Georgia Tech freshman safety, may someday share that experience with his father, although chances are his proudest moment will likely exceed it. Gray arrives at Tech with high expectations, having been named the Gatorade state player of the year and a Parade All-American after twice leading Washington County to Class AAA state finals.
Allen Gray said his son has the goal of “working hard and coming in and being able to play right away as a freshman.”
A.J. Gray was Tech’s second commitment of the 2015 signing class, indication both of the team’s high level of mutual interest. He said yes to Tech in March 2014.
“Georgia Tech made me feel like I was at home,” Gray said. “They made me feel like they really wanted me.”
(Gray’s father, the principal at Washington County, said he was “dancing in the streets” when his son chose to commit because he recognized the value of a Tech degree. He jokingly added that he would have started recruiting Tech on his son’s behalf had Tech coaches not initiated.)
Gray’s goal is to start at safety this season, a tall order considering that the Jackets have two senior starters, Jamal Golden at free safety and Demond Smith at strong. Regardless, the future would appear promising for Gray, who is Tech’s first Gatorade state player of the from Georgia since Jeremy Muyres earned the award in 1999. (Golden won it in Alabama in 2010.)
On signing day, offensive line coach Mike Sewak, who recruited Gray, compared him to former Tech safety Isaiah Johnson for his physical, attacking style. Sewak also praised his instinctual understanding of the game.
From a physical standpoint, he would appear ready. Just before reporting to Tech in June, Gray said he was 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds. On signing day, he was listed at 6-1, 196.
“Honestly, I think it’s just muscle, because I don’t see any fat,” Gray said.
1. Gray follows former Jackets linebacker Brandon Watts to Tech from Washington County. Watts now plays for the Minnesota Vikings. Said Gray’s father, “For students like A.J. to be able to relate with somebody that walked the same halls, played on the same fields, that’s very beneficial.”
2. Gray’s jersey at Washington County was retired. Said Gray, “I was happy, excited about it. I was just blessed.”
3. Gray will wear No. 15, worn most recently by wide receiver DeAndre Smelter.
4. On having a father as his high-school principal: “I just know what I have to do. I know what I can do and know what I can’t do.”
5. Gray said he got “real close” to Sewak during recruiting: “I like Coach Sewak. He’s a down-to-earth guy. He’s a straightforward guy.”
Gray was also an all-state basketball player as a sophomore and junior.
New in ’15