Former Maryland left tackle Derwin Gray is driven by family in more ways than one as he prepares for April's NFL Draft.
Gray has a daughter he refers to as his "biggest motivation." A native of Washington, D.C., Gray also hopes to use his platform in football to "help others back home in D.C. and all the other people around me." And he lost a friend and teammate when offensive lineman Jordan McNair died at the age of 19 in June, and Gray says McNair and the rest of the Terps shared a "common dream" to play in the NFL.
Gray played at Maryland from 2014-2018, redshirting his first year. He started three games in 2016, then started 22 of 24 games during his final two years in College Park, Md. All 25 of his starts came at left tackle. Gray considered turning pro after his junior season, but he ultimately returned.
Gray had offseason knee surgery after his junior year, but something else happened between his junior and seasons, too: his daughter, Kali was born. She's now 10 months old. As Gray works to ensure his name is called at the NFL Draft April 25-27, Kali is on the forefront of his mind.
"That's my biggest motivation, man, knowing I have a mouth to feed," Gray said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Jan. 17. "… I just try to make sure I put a smile on my daughter's face even though she doesn't really know what's going on every day. That would be my biggest, biggest goal is to make sure my daughter doesn't have to worry about nothing a day in her life. I'll break my ankles, whatever the case might be, that's for her, whatever the case might be. That's my motivation every day."
Gray blocked for productive running games at Maryland from 2016-2018. The Terps were fourth in the Big Ten in rushing in 2016 with 2,594 yards, ninth in 2017 with 1,940 yards and third in 2018 with 2,762 yards. Running backs Gray blocked for included Ty Johnson (2,635 yards from 2015-2018), Lorenzo Harrison (1,339 yards from 2016-2018) and Anthony McFarland (1,034 yards in 2018).
What position Gray will play at the next level remains to be seen, though Walter Football lists him as the
ninth-best guard available in the draft
. Gray said he doesn't have a preference for whether he plays tackle or guard; though he hasn't played guard, Gray said he has the hand strength, quickness, power and grit to play inside.
The NFL Scouting Combine will take place in Indianapolis Feb. 26-March 4, and Gray said he received an invitation. Gray's draft stock will become clearer at that point.
No matter the position he plays or the team he ends up with, the Friendship Collegiate Academy (D.C.) graduate hopes to help out his hometown of Washington with the platform he could soon have.
"I just look at the NFL as a way to branch off and do other things but also, I love the game of football and everything that comes with it," Gray said. "Whether it's the hard times, the grind, the glory you get, I love every part about football. It's something I've been doing since a young boy and now it's getting down to another stage.
"I always look at football as a kid's game, go out there and have fun. It's something now you're getting paid for. You get to choose what you want to do with the glory you get, whether to help other guys out with it or be selfish, and I choose to use my voice and my actions and my platform to help others back home in D.C. and all the other people around me, man. That's pretty much my goal."
One person Gray will continue to fight for moving forward is McNair, who died June 13 after falling ill during a team workout May 29. The school
for McNair's death. Gray, who had plans to work out with McNair last summer, said he thought he owed McNair and his parents, Marty and Tonya, "all I had" for the 2018 football season.
Gray said McNair's goals included beating Ohio State and playing in the NFL, which was a "common dream" for the Terps, according to Gray. The Terps
vowed to keep the spirit of their fallen teammate alive
during the season and beyond, and the team's offensive linemen were no small part of that effort.
"We knew we were all we had after losing Jordan," Gray said. "We knew we had to stick together. I mean, the team's only going to go as far as the O-line goes. We had to be strong, we had to come out ready to play every game and come out of practice with the right mindset, the right juice, the right energy every day because the team looked at us. It may seem kind of crazy because we don't touch the ball, all we do is block and things like that, but we were the heartbeat of the team."
To hear the full interview with Gray, listen here:
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