Jerry Gray: Helping Turn Texas Into DBU

Erich Schlegel

Former Longhorn Jerry Gray will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, right where he belongs.

He is the best defensive back I have ever seen with my own eyes to play in the Burnt Orange & White.

This week he joins another exclusive club as Jerry Gray enters the College Football Hall of Fame.

Gray, a shut down corner in a safety's body, was a two-time consensus all-american for the Longhorns in 1983-84. He was a unanimous choice in 1984, in large part because he was at his best against the best.

In 1983, #3 Texas opened up at #4 Auburn. The Tigers still ran the wishbone, headed by a backfield of Bo Jackson, Tommy Agee and Lionel James. Gray led arguably the best defense in school history. The front 7 was two-deep nasty. The defensive backfield was littered with future NFL players -- Gray, Mossy Cade, Jitter Fields -- as well as Richard Peavy, a spectacular DB who had his career cut short by injury.

Auburn did not cross the 50 yard line until late in the 3rd quarter when it was already 20-0. Bo Jackson had just 35 yards on 7 carries -- and was the Tigers leading rusher.

The tone for the game was set early on when Auburn attempted to go deep. Gray, playing the run at first, quickly realized there was a deep post pattern developing. He ran down the receiver, jumped up and made a one-handed interception deep in Texas territory.

This 1983 season highlight video contains more than enough film evidence of Jerry Gray's ability.

The rematch in Austin in 1984 is known for Gray taking Bo Jackson out of the Heisman Trophy race. Jackson broke free and raced down the east sideline at Memorial Stadium when Gray (with a nice angle) ran him down and in the process Jackson separated his shoulder. The basically ended Jackson's junior season. He looked Jerry up after the game to assure him he considered it clean hit.

The tackle had such repercussions that Gray's overall performance that night gets lost. Gray had 9 solo tackles, a recovered fumble, and he sealed the 35-27 Longhorn win with a late interception.

Gray finished his career at Texas with 16 career interceptions and 297 tackles and countless nervous opponents. Try as they might to avoid Gray, he roamed the middle of the field making life miserable for quarterbacks, receivers and running backs.

The Recruitment of Jerry Gray

Jerry was a three-sport star at Lubbock Estacado (football, basketball & track), good enough to be inducted into the Texas High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Barry Switzer was convinced Gray could be his next great Wishbone QB. UT coach Fred Akers convinced Gray that his best chance at an NFL career was as a defensive back. Gray was leaning towards Texas but admitted that the pressure from OU was relentless.

On the final weekend before signing day, the UT assistant who had done most of the heavy lifting in recruiting Gray went to Lubbock to babysit. The OU assistant was also in Lubbock, so Gray suggested that he and a friend join Jerry's HS coach and the UT assistant for some basketball in the Estacado gym.

The coaches locked the door and the four spent the entire Saturday playing two-on-two. The Longhorn assistant could hardly walk at the end of the day, his feet a blistering, bloody mess.

Gray's signature went a long way to healing the wounds.

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