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Washington County's Gray makes a name for himself with a familiar name

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Junior A.J. Gray is still fresh as Washington County’s 2013 starting quarterback, with only three games on his résumé. But he’s no stranger to recognition.

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Washington County Quarter Back A.J. Gray is in his first year as the starting quarterback. He was an all-state selection at defensive back as a sophomore and was an all-state player in basketball as well. He's just a junior.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Washington County Quarter Back A.J. Gray is in his first year as the starting quarterback. He was an all-state selection at defensive back as a sophomore and was an all-state player in basketball as well. He's just a junior.

Gray has thrived as the Golden Hawks’ pilot while still contributing as a defensive back. He’s also a star on the basketball court.

Last year, Gray was second team All-State at defensive back in football and second team All-State in basketball.

His family is used to earning accolades at the school. His sister, Allisha, led the Lady Hawks to the 2011 state championship, averaged more than 30 points per game as a junior and is about to start her first year at the University of North Carolina. Older brother Marlo East, a former football star at Washington County and player at Troy University, is Washington County’s defensive coordinator.

“We have fun with it,” East said. “He really listens. He has the coach at home sometimes – we play a lot of video games together, mostly college football games. We talk about coverages and then the blitzes and all types of stuff like that. I think he transfers over that stuff to the real game.”

Gray’s experience is familiar to Golden Hawks coach Joel Ingram. Ingram’s father was the principal while in high school and an older sibling was a star athlete.

“But he doesn’t ask for preferential treatment,” Ingram said. “He’s got that pedigree and he’s made a name for himself.”

With Washington County outscoring foes 161-27, Grayis rushing and throwing for 100 yards each and still playing stout defense.

“Everybody says that’s crazy. But I’m a firm believer, you got to have your best 11 players on the field,” Ingram said about playing Gray on both offense and defense. “A.J.’s future is probably as a safety, but people are getting two for the price of one... They just didn’t know he would be developing as a quarterback this soon.”

Gray’s gains made for a smooth transition at quarterback.

He replaced William Walker, another playmaker who led the Golden Hawks to 41.9 points per game in 2012 and a state quarterfinal appearance.

Ingram said the two are eerily similar, with their running abilities, good arm and quiet confidence without a big head leading to success.

With Gray’s talent and work ethic, he’s in solid standing no matter the sport or position. He hasn’t yet made any declarations about his future.

But, does he prefer quarterback or defensive back?

“I like them both the same,” Gray said.

How about basketball or football?

“They’re even, too.”

Like a quarterback at the snap, Gray is checking all his options.


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