While he’s projected to be a safety in college, La Vergne senior Maleik Gray is still focused on being an outside linebacker.
That’s where the Tennessee commitment will be lined up for the Wolverines in 2016, and the 6-2, 190-pounder has high expectations for himself and his team.
“I’ve got a lot taken off my shoulders (by committing to UT), and I can focus more on school ball and academics. I just want to keep getting better every day. It’s all about hard work on and off the field, how bad we want it. If we do our jobs and stick together as a team, the sky is the limit.”
Gray, a four-star athlete and ranked the No. 6 recruit in the state in the 2017 class by 247Sports, will be invaluable for La Vergne. He is No. 3 on this year’s Dandy Dozen, which features the top senior college football prospects in Middle Tennessee as selected by The Tennessean high school sports staff with input from area high school coaches and recruiting services.
The Tennessee Titans Mr. Football semifinalist in 2015, Gray recorded 57 tackles with two sacks and two recovered fumbles. He will again quarterback the defense from his linebacker position.
“He’s a (Denver Broncos star) Von Miller-type guy for us,” La Vergne coach Stanton Stevens said. “He can play off the edge and cause havoc from a stand-up position, and he has the ability to disrupt offensive schemes. Cookeville assigned two guys to block him in a scrimmage. But, he can also drop back in coverage.”
Gray will also be a huge part of the Wolverine offense as a wide receiver. Last season, he had 22 receptions for 485 yards and eight touchdowns.
This season, he will be lined up opposite fellow senior and Tennessee commitment Princeton Fant.
Gray said Fant will be a major key to the team.
“I wish we had him (last year),” he said. “He’s back and healthy and ready to make some plays.”
Gray relishes the idea of being on the field the majority of each game.
“I expect to play a lot,” he said. “I hope to play a big role and do whatever it takes to lead the team.
“I feel I’ve improved a lot mentally and physically. I’ve worked on the little things, like footwork and attacking the ball. All of those things add up.”
Reach Cecil Joyce at 615-278-5168 and on Twitter @Cecil_Joyce.
No. 3: Maleik Gray
La Vergne, Athlete
Height: 6-2 Weight: 205
247Sports composite: Four stars
College plans: Committed to Tennessee on June 18
2015 statistics: Gray, a 2015 Mr. Football semifinalist, registered 53 tackles – 13 behind the line of scrimmage – with six sacks, two interceptions and a pair of defensive touchdowns while also hauling in 22 receptions for 485 yards and eight scores.