MARBLE FALLS — Marble Falls High School receiver Garrett Gray and his parents, Darin and Sara, flashed the Hook ‘Em Horns sign after the Mustang signed his letter of intent to play football for the University of Texas on Feb. 5.
Sara’s father, Gerald “Jess” Stiles, was an associate athletic director at Texas Tech University, who died shortly after Garrett Gray committed to play for the Longhorns.
“It’s a little different,” she said when asked how difficult it was to flash the Texas hand sign.
“Not for me,” Darin Gray said.
Todd Dodge recalled contacting Gray’s parents in early 2012 to ask them if he could visit with their son.
The three invited the new Marble Falls High School head football coach, who had been on the job for a little more than a week, to their home, where Dodge talked to the younger Gray, then a sophomore, about returning to the football field after a one-year hiatus to concentrate on basketball.
By the end of the conversation, Gray was sold.
“Garrett and I talked about, with the help of a whole lot of people, let’s make sure that when you leave, no one (just) says, ‘You had a whole lot of potential,” Dodge said. “He said he was looking forward to it. It’s been a tremendous two years.”
Indeed. The 6-foot-4½-inch receiver, who was clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, signed his letter of intent to play for the Longhorns on National Signing Day. Gray caught 160 passes for 2,560 yards with 37 receiving touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns and a kickoff return for a touchdown, all in the 20 games he played for the Mustangs his junior and senior years.
“On Friday nights at 7:30, he turned it on,” Dodge said. “It’s one of the most historic two-year runs. And he’s not as good as he’s going to get.”
Gray committed to play for the Longhorns in June 2013.
When then-head coach Mack Brown resigned in December and the university hired Charlie Strong to take over, there was some uncertainty about whether the Longhorns still wanted the Gray, his father said.
But that changed two weeks ago, when Texas receivers coach Les Koenning called the family.
The receiver and the coach talked for about 25 minutes. Once they hung up, Gray turned to his father.
“I want to play football for that man,” he told his father. “He told me that we were going to be great every down. He was going to push me. He told me what they were going to do to make me better.”
Two weeks ago, Strong paid a visit to the high school and met Dodge and Gray. That conversation reassured the receiver even more.
During his afternoon news conference Feb. 5, Strong said he told Gray that he reminded him of former University of Florida standout receiver Riley Cooper, now a member of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
Strong said the two are similar in height and are both very strong.
Gray is undecided on a major but intends to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees before his eligibility expires.
Gray thanked his family, teammates, Dodge and Marble Falls offensive coordinator and receivers coach Bill Poe.
“All that yelling and screaming wasn’t for nothing,” he said with a grin.
Gray confirmed what Dodge told him during that visit in February 2012.
“I think I can safely say,” he said, “we accomplished that.”