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Archive for November, 2014

Jonas Gray’s breakout NFL game leaves his Pontiac family stunned with pride

By John Q. Horn

It has been a November to never forget for one Detroit intern. And it’s not because the boss gave him the full-time job he coveted.

While most metro Detroit families this Thanksgiving are stuffed with gratitude and football, one family is covered in both. Few could’ve bounced as high in the workplace the last few weeks as Corinthian “Cori” Gray. The 22-year-old is a communications intern at the Detroit Zoo. And he continues to gleam thanks to a phenomenal effort from his older brother that assuredly put a greater shine on Thanksgiving this year.

Cori’s brother, Jonas Gray, is an NFL running back for the New England Patriots. A few weeks ago, Jonas flew Cori and his mother Jerri to Lucas Oil Field Stadium in Indianapolis for the Patriots-Colts game. Jonas wasted little time welcoming his family to game day; he scored his first NFL touchdown in the first quarter. His 4-yard run gave New England an early lead.

Still beaming, Jerri and Cori barely had time to catch their breath before Jonas scored a second touchdown – this one from 2 yards out – before halftime. Jonas scored twice again in the second half.

Jonas broke off not 1, but 4 rushing touchdowns, in a single game. Literally, he became a headline overnight. NFL writer Peter King of The Monday Morning Quarterback gushed over his performance. Two days later, Jonas was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The next day, the NFL named him AFC Player Of The Week.

“When Jonas scored that first touchdown, my mom and I were screaming, going crazy,” Cori said. “His second TD, we were shocked. At halftime, a friend texted me saying Jonas already had 101 yards. I texted back, ‘just watch.’

“When he scored the third time, I was thinking ‘this can’t be real.’ And when he got the fourth touchdown, I hugged my mom and, I’m not even gonna lie, cried. We hugged. We didn’t move.”

Jonas Gray’s day to shine in the NFL led to a 42-30 New England win, earning the Pats first-place at 8-2 in the AFC East. New England hosted Detroit in Week 12, killing the Lions, 34-9.

Undrafted from Notre Dame in 2013, Jonas Gray signed with and was later released by Miami. He was picked up by Baltimore, landing on the practice squad there before joining New England. Injuries to the Pats’ running back corps at that time cleared a spot for serious playing time for him in Week 11.

 

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Gray finished his breakout game against the Colts with an eye-popping 201 yards on 37 carries. He was targeted once for an incomplete pass.

“After the game,” Cori said, “Jonas came to us and he was just as cool as he could be. Confident. He said this game was nothing compared to what’s about to come.”

That’s some big talk, as it should be, for a galvanized family of three that coalesced on city streets oftentimes more grim than not. In neighborhoods with not a lot of opportunities for youth, attaining goals gets tricky quickly.

“Nobody expected much from us,” Cori said.

 

Mom Means Business

What a terrific undoing of perception. Expectations shift swiftly. Perception can be reality. And a cop mom raising two boys by herself in a tough town is going to go in one of two directions. Parts of Pontiac are no joke.

Jerri Gray is a 15-year veteran of the Pontiac Police Department. This has included work in:

  • Vice
  • Narcotics
  • Juvenile sex crimes
  • Crime scene investigations
  • And yes, mountain bike patrol in the downtown nightlife/drunky-obnoxious detail.

Jerri Gray has walked the beat while marching to her own.

Both Jerri and Cori agree that the cornerstone of their upbringing was a never-quit attitude instilled and upheld by Mom.

“I kept the boys pretty busy and never let them quit,” Jerri said. “Even when Cori started playing the trumpet, I told him ‘Once you start this, you have to finish it.’ And I was serious.”

Cori says that Jerri’s confidence and encouragement evolved into a roadmap for their success. But that same love came also with a steep price to pay for stepping out of line.

“My mom is 5 feet 7 inches. And she don’t play,” Cori said, laughing.

 

Check This Out, Bro

Jonas texted Cori a mockup of the Sports Illustrated cover coming out the next day. Player of The Week honors followed; and that, after a 4-touchdown dream game by their brother and son, the Grays on this Thanksgiving weekend might still be over the moon.

Cori continues his internship at the Detroit Zoo, cutting his public relations chops by writing press releases, coordinating events and working as a liaison between media and the Zoo. He also works full time at D1 Sports Training, a factory of high-end conditioning and training for the serious athlete, co-owned by Detroit Lions defensive end Ndamukong Suh and former tight end Tony Scheffler.

Moms like Jerri are proud of their boys, be it the gridiron or the sandbox. Jerri’s Sunday was almost other-worldly. Her son, in his first NFL game where he really saw meaningful playing time, scored an unimaginable 4 touchdowns.

The NFL record for single-game touchdowns by a running back is 5, a title held by five players. More than 50 running backs have scored 4 times in one game. Gray joins the annals with such running back legends as Earl Campbell, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders.

The Grays hope more Sundays are like Week 11. In the interim, Jerri assures that Sundays in her home continue to see her sacred, end-of-the-weekend routine  thrive – breakfast, church, and then back home to start cooking and dialing up the slate of NFL games on TV. That’s not much different than the plans of most football fans on a Sunday. But at Jerri’s house, she could be watching her own son on game day.

John Horn can be reached at hornjq@gmail.com. Additional work can be viewed at www.johnqjournalist.com

 

Update: Jonas Gray is in the process of making amends for arriving late to practice Nov. 21, a mistake leading to plenty of Internet headlines and a dismissal from the team’s facility for a day, courtesy of coach Bill Belichick. Jonas did play in the Week 12 game against the Lions.

Jonas Gray wasn’t the only running back in New England to make news that week. The Patriots signed recently released running back LeGarrette Blount Nov. 20. Blount’s presence and the improved health of running back Shane Vereen – ahead of Gray on the club’s depth chart — could minimize Jonas’s opportunities as the Patriots march toward the playoffs.

In the Week 12 matchup against Detroit, Gray registered no carries for 0 yards in a 34-9 Pats win.

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