Lee Gray, the Gentle Giant?
In speaking with Gray at media day, that was the impression I was left with.
Now don't go assuming that means Gray is ‘soft'. He has been turning heads in practice for the better part of the last 18 months since making the move from defensive line to left tackle.
And like I have said in previous stories about offensive linemen, nearly all of them speak like college professors, belying the football stereotypes of caged animals being poked with sticks and only let out to wreak their havoc on Saturday's.
However, Gray is as soft spoken and articulate as any 6-foot-6, 300-pound man I have ever heard. His intelligence beams through his natural scowl, and when you get him laughing, you can see the child inside this man.
That being said, Gray knows that he has a big challenge ahead of him this year, and that is not just limited to the players he will face in the actual games. He also has to battle the shadow cast by perhaps the best offensive linemen in the history of the Iowa program, Robert Gallery.
Left tackle at Iowa has become synonymous with Robert Gallery. How is that going to be for you stepping in to fill that spot? What are your expectations?
I want to accept the challenge, we want to believe in the coaches and we want to work hard at practice, as a line. Not to take anything away from Robert, but he wasn't just out there by himself all those years. It has been a collective effort, and I believe that we will gel together well, and ultimately succeed once the season starts.
The other linemen I have spoken with are saying the same things; all of you getting on one page and moving together as a unit, and that can and will happen. You guys really believe that, don't you?
Yes we do. It is not going to take one person to spring a big play, it takes everyone doing their assignments to make that play work. If we are all on the same page, doing our assignments, the play should work like the coaches draw it up.
Do you believe as a unit, that ‘Iowa has had a great line for the last several years, and if we do what the coaches tell us to do, we can have the same type of success as those other lines have had'?
Yes, everyone knows that Coach Ferentz is the best offensive line coach in the country. We will take what he says and what coach Morgan says and believe in them. If they criticize us, we take it, because we know they are not putting us down. We will work each and every practice, work on the areas that the coaches identify, and get better and better throughout the year.
With that in mind, their constructive criticism's, their teaching, etc, where do you feel this line can take this football team this year?
We just have to wait and see and we hope for the best.
As a backup last year in practice, you went against the #1 defense a lot. Were you knocking heads with Matt Roth?
More so against Howard Hodges, but this spring, I went up against Matt quite a bit. It's fun because I know that he might be beating me a lot, but he is making me better at the same time, and he is doing the same for the other offensive linemen on the team that he goes up against. What can you say, Matt is just a great player, and he beats most of the people he lines up against. It's good to have someone like him on your team, because he is amazing. To practice against him will make the games that much easier.
You made the move from Defense to Offense; was that a hard decision?
No, it wasn't, because I trust the coaches to put me in a position where I can succeed and help the team. I trusted them that O-line could be a better move for me than D-line. It also helps to see other positive examples like Dallas Clark and Mike Follett who switched sides, and players like Gallery who switched positions.
Lee Gray is an imposing figure, as he stands 6-feet-6 and weighs more than 300-pounds. He casts a pretty big shadow, but it's safe to say that early in the season, even a man of his size will be engulfed by the shadow that will stretch all the way from Oakland, California. Robert Gallery has set the standard as far as dominant left tackles go, and any player that dons the black and gold at that position in the future will be measured against Gallery's greatness. First up, Lee Gray.