Gray finds his way back home

J.T. Gray finished fourth in tackles for Mississippi State in 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

J.T. Gray finished fourth in tackles for Mississippi State in 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

When J.T. Gray was a junior in high school he made the move from Clarksdale, Mississippi to Coolidge, Arizona never expecting to return to the Magnolia State except for maybe an occasional visit to see family.

However, Gray’s journey out west would only last one year. He returned to Clarksdale as a senior to be closer to a college program in his home state where he now resides, Mississippi State.

“I was hearing from Mississippi State when I left and they followed me out there,” Gray said. “They just started growing and growing inside of me. When I was in Arizona, I never thought I’d come back home permanently. But I came on a visit and everybody in my hometown started talking to me and I started liking Mississippi State.”

The former three-star prospect signed with the Bulldogs in 2014 over 11 other offers and expected to be a safety at the next level. But after arriving in Starkville, the 6-foot, 196-pounder was moved to outside linebacker.

“When I was being recruited they were talking to me about being a safety,” Gray said. “But as soon as I came in they moved me down to linebacker. I wasn’t worried about it because I can play anywhere they put me at.”

Coaches also planned to redshirt Gray during his freshman season to allow him to adjust to his new position. However, injuries along with his quick adjustment caused the staff to play him in the eighth game of the season.

The decision was perfectly fine with Gray.

“I started even while I was in high school with my goal being not to be redshirted,” Gray said. “When they told me I was going to be redshirted I told myself ‘cool, I’m going to keep playing hard’. Through hard work and consistency in the weight room, I got stronger on the field. They were calling me an animal out there. I never stopped working hard.”

The hard work paid off as he went on to play in the final six games and earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team.

Gray continued to make an impact as a sophomore this past fall, appearing in all 13 games. He finished fourth on the team in tackles with 65 including 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Gray expects to play an even bigger part in MSU’s defense moving forward with the departures of Zach Jackson and Beniquez Brown.

“I see my role increasing,” Gray said. “It’s more pressure on me but I’m ready for it.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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