No gray area: Rush wide receiver a record setter
With a big game against the Iowa Barnstormers on Sunday for the Chicago Rush on Sunday, wide receiver Reggie Gray could grab two franchise records for touchdown receptions and all-purpose scoring.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Snook/Chicago Rush
The question is inevitable when people see wide receiver Reggie Gray play or look at the gaudy numbers he puts up for the Chiclago Rush.
He's heard it too many times to keep track: "Why aren't you at the next level?"
"People ask me when am I going to try out for the NFL," said Gray, who has a chance Sunday to eclipse Rush career records for receiving touchdowns and all-purpose touchdowns. "I have to let them know that it's not that easy as calling the Bears up and asking them if I can come try out. It gets tiresome at times, especially when you don't get the opportunity.
"And I've never gotten the opportunity, not even to showcase a little bit of talent, even though I broke career records back at Western Illinois. To never get the opportunity, it does become frustrating, especially when people see how good you are and they're always wondering why aren't you at the next level."
In 2˝ seasons with the Rush, Gray has 68 touchdown catches, 2 short of the team record. With his 4 kickoff-return scores, he has 72 all-purpose TDs, just 1 short of the franchise mark.
Both records are within his grasp when the 5-2 Rush host the 3-4 Iowa Barnstormers at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Gray leads the Rush with 50 receptions and 19 touchdown catches this season to go with 654 receiving yards. He put up monster numbers last season, when his 130 receptions produced 1,969 yards and 49 touchdowns.
A few years ago when Rashied Davis put up similar numbers for the San Jose Saber Cats of the AFL it propelled him to a six-year career with the Bears before he moved on to the Detroit Lions last season.
Gray, however, didn't get the same attention.
"I actually got none at all," he said. "I didn't get any looks, any consideration or anything. I mean, I understand."
With his size and the fact that he turned 28 last week, Gray realizes he's not what the NFL wants at that position.
"It's definitely not (lack of) skill," he said. "I would say 95 percent of it has to do with size. I'm not the biggest guy in the world, but that's not going to stop me from going out and playing the game like I was 6-foot-2. I'm going to give it my all, and you never know what can happen."
If it doesn't happen for Gray, he has enough to keep him busy.
"I would say I'm probably the hardest-working Arena Football player you'll see," he said.
The greatly reduced pay scale in the new Arena Football League makes for a better business plan, but it requires most of the players to work other jobs, and Gray has two. Both involve counseling and mentoring 17- to 20-year-old wards of the state.
The Morgan Park High School graduate can relate to the young adults he works with from the South Side of Chicago, where he grew up.
"It's tough," he said. "I have a mortgage and things like that. I even considered retiring. It's not paying what it needs to pay. If I couldn't give full dedication to it, I wouldn't want to do it, but the fact is that I still love the game.
"But when I say I have little free time, I have very … little … free … time, trying to do football and my job and to spend enough time with my son."
At home, 3-year-old Reginald Jeral Gray Jr. keeps his dad busy day and night. The tike got his first taste of "organized" sports in a beginner's football program last fall.
"He really doesn't know what's going on," Gray laughed. "He's just running around out there and not listening. We're going to get him in other sports as well. But with him seeing me play football, he always says, 'I wanna play football like my daddy,' and he'll be trying to tackle me, and it puts a smile on my face."
As Reggie Gray can attest, there are some things more important than money.
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