University of Texas

Johnathan Gray not ruling out return to football. But for now he’s focused on this

Aledo legend Johnathan Gray talks post-football life

Former Aledo star and Texas running back Johnathan Gray is putting his football aspirations aside and going all-in on training youngsters. Gray is focused on helping youth on and off field.
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Former Aledo star and Texas running back Johnathan Gray is putting his football aspirations aside and going all-in on training youngsters. Gray is focused on helping youth on and off field.

Johnathan Gray isn’t ready to say he’s given up on his professional football dreams. But he’s at a stage where he’s turning down potential opportunities, including a recent inquiry from the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League.

The Aledo High School legend and former University of Texas running back is all-in on his latest endeavor -- starting a sports performance training business.

“This is where I see myself being and I can be good at it, great at it even,” Gray said last week during an interview at Athletic Performance (AP) Ranch in West Fort Worth.

“Since I was in the eighth grade, I always thought about going to the NFL and being that good running back, but my secret passion was to help other guys.

“Football is more on the backburner now. I’ve turned down opportunities to play because I’ve started this and I didn’t want to give up on it. Once we get rocking here and getting these kids and getting this system, maybe down the line I’ll play. In the meantime, I’m doing this and I’m 100 percent invested in this.”

Gray is in the early stages of getting it started, J Gray Sports and Performance, and could partner with veteran trainer Montrel Duckett. It’s a combination each think will work with Gray focusing more on the agility aspect of athletes, and Duckett on strength.

Gray’s been in “business” less than a month, but has already started training six athletes. He splits his time between Fort Worth and Austin, and dreams of providing an outlet for children to get high-performance athletic training as well as mentoring them off the field.

“We want to teach kids there’s a life after football. A life after sports,” Gray said. “I want to give them tools to use outside of their sports. It’s all about growing and being able to understand what’s going on in this world.”

Gray has been a model citizen since being one of the greatest players in Texas high school history. He finished his career at Aledo with three state championships, 10,889 yards rushing and 189 touchdowns.

He also caught 73 passes for 1,244 yards and 16 TDs in his high school career. The 205 total touchdowns was a national record when Gray left Aledo, which went 56-4 in his time there.

Gray had an injury-plagued college career at Texas, sustaining two Achilles injuries, but finished with 2,610 yards rushing and 17 TDs in four seasons with the Longhorns.

The Star-Telegram touched on a number of topics with Gray, who turns 26 next month --

Is it nice to be 100 percent in on something other than football?

Yes. I’ve always given my 100 percent in football and always worked hard and always was that guy who pushed myself to that limit. So I want to see now what can I do out here. Can I push myself to that same limit? I’m excited. I enjoy working with the kids. It’s one of my passions. Just being that tool that somebody can bounce their stuff off of. I can’t wait to get this up and running.

When you see startup football leagues like the AAF and XFL, does that interest you at all?

I see them, but I’m just like, ‘Let me go in business for myself and make my own schedule and be my own boss.’ That sounded more appealing to me.

Were you ever yourself on the field after the Achilles injuries?

Everybody asks that, am I step slower? No. Actually, when I went to Giants camp after my second Achilles, I did phenomenal there. I felt great. I ran great. They were like, ‘Man, you didn’t lose a step.’ My Achilles’ are actually stronger than they were before. I had clean tears, no damage, no nerve damage. I feel good. My speed is there, cuts and all of that stuff is there.

But this new endeavor is bigger than football for you right now?

I’m trying to train and also reach out to the kids and getting the kids more involved in their communities. I think that’s why people really respect me outside of football. They know what I did on the field, but more how I reached them by going to birthday parties or serving foods. Just getting involved in the communities.

Finally, how about your high school coach, Tim Buchanan, getting back in it?

I saw him recently and was like, ‘You just can’t stay out of it, can you?’ He said, ‘No, I can’t. I miss it John.’ I mean, they just did the switch-a-roo, Coach Buck and Coach [Steve] Wood. They’re enjoying it and excited for the season. I’m excited for them.

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