Kenwood's Gray a handyman on and off field Star receiver hammers out a backup career to football

September 30, 1992|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Staff Writer

Kenwood split end Joe Gray appears to possess all th physical tools needed to play Division I college football.

But if football is not in his future, Gray can use his other tools.

Like his hammer and saw.

Gray, a senior, is enrolled in a carpentry program at Kenwood. Although he aspires to continue his football-playing days after high school, Gray realizes the importance of an alternative career.

"I want to get my SATs up," Gray said. "If everything works out, then I'll play football. But if the worst comes, I always have carpentry to fall back on.

"My parents encouraged me [to pursue carpentry], but it was mainly me that wanted to do it, just in case I don't make it in the pros."

Carpentry's gain would be the gridiron's loss.

"Athletically, he's a Division I player," Kenwood coach Fred Myers said. "There has been a lot of interest [from colleges] in him. But he's just enjoying his high school career."

Said Gray: "I would like to stay with football as long as I can. If the opportunity to play semipro ball or something else came along I would take it."

An All-Metro selection last season, Gray was second in the area in receiving with 49 catches for 1,112 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also was among the area's scoring leaders with 104 points.

Gray turned in the area's top receiving performance of the week four times last season. He had seven catches in a game twice, and he gained a season-high 180 yards on five catches against Owings Mills.

This season, Gray is seventh in the area in receiving (11 catches for 233 yards and six touchdowns) and is the area's second-leading scorer, accounting for 54 of the Bluebirds' 130 points. Gray has helped Kenwood to a 3-1 record and a 32.5 points-per-game average.

Kenwood's offense wasn't always as potent, however.

"We started throwing the ball, using the run-and-shoot two years ago," Myers said. "But two years ago, it was more like the walk-and-crawl."

That was B.G. (Before Gray).

Gray brought speed, great hands and an instinct for reading defenses to Kenwood last season after transferring from Lansdowne, where he sat out two seasons with a knee injury.

Gray draws double coverage from opposing defenses. But it doesn't stop him.

"Even on double coverage, he gets open," Kenwood junior quarterback Shula Ferguson said. "He's pretty tall [6 feet 4], so he can out-jump most people."

He also can outrun them. Gray's speed has helped turn short passes into long gainers.

"Last year he was the heart of our offense," Myers said. "This year we're more well-balanced. But because of Joe's speed, teams have to double cover him. That really opens things up for us offensively."

Said Ferguson: "He makes it pretty easy for me. And he really knows how to read defenses."

When Gray isn't catching passes on offense, he's trying to prevent them on defense as a safety. He has two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns.

Gray also plays special teams and has returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

"Joe never comes off the field," Myers said. "He's developed into an all-around player. He's a real hitter on defense. Offensively, he's a threat from anywhere on the field."

And he's pretty good with a hammer and saw as well.

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