You’d be hard pressed to find another player at Notre Dame last season that endured such emotional swings as running back Jonas Gray. From an afterthought to the feel-good story of the year, Gray teamed up with Cierre Wood to churn out 160.4 rushing yards per game and 25 total touchdowns before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against Boston College on Nov. 19.
A college career that was once headed for a letdown was reignited in 2011, only to be seemingly snuffed out when scouts started taking notice. Fans, along with Gray, wondered if his 791 yards (6.9 average) and 12 TDs as a senior, after rushing for only 309 yards without crossing the goal line in his previous three seasons, would be enough for NFL teams to be interested. And if so, would the injury make it a moot point?
Gray’s tears that November night in South Bend, on an evening meant to recognize the senior class, were quickly wiped away and replaced by sweat beads in an effort to reach his rekindled dream of playing on Sundays.
That goal became reality as the last handful of names was called out during April’s NFL Draft. The Miami Dolphins offered Gray an undrafted rookie free agent deal designed to give him time to get healthy, even if that meant sitting out the 2012-13 season. Gray, in the final phases of his rehabilitation process, has no intention of waiting that long.
“I get more and more excited every day,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but something different motivates me every single day. It happens right when I need it. Right now I’m at 225 [pounds] and I feel awesome. My body looks great. I’m in great condition and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.
“I’ve just been doing a lot of rehab. I wasn’t able to do anything during the offseason program. The medical staff didn’t want me to do too much. So I’m pretty much just sticking to the plan.”
The plan has reached the final stages. A test in mid-July revealed that his recovering right knee is about 15 percent weaker and less stable compared to his left knee. The Dolphins’ medical team wants to see that number lowered to the 8-10 percent range before sending him back to the doctor that performed the corrective surgery back in early December. Gray’s surgeon will have the final say.
“I’m way far ahead and I’m getting very close,” Gray said.
He hopes to participate in training camp, which began on July 26.
“There’s a chance. But again, I don’t know,” Gray said. “I think what they want me to do is just continue to be patient and keep making progress. As long as I keep making progress, that’s all I can ask for.”