Notre Dame football's Jonas Gray has really given Irish fans a spectacle in his final season with the Irish. After an unimpressive career leading up to this point, the running back really turned his game into something Notre Dame fans will remember for years.
A four-star recruit hailing from Detroit Country Day School in Michigan, the large tailback entered school at only 213 lbs, according to his profile on rivals.com.
Gray was a late addition to Notre Dame's 2008 recruiting class. Though he proclaimed a love for the Irish, the coaching staff slow-played the star Michigan running back who'd committed to Nebraska, despite wanting to play for Notre Dame. Fortunately, the staff had a change of heart and Gray ended up in South Bend.
As his career progressed, Irish fans saw flashes of brilliance from Gray in limited playing time, but his propensity to lose the ball could also be seen. Ultimately, it was this proclivity for fumbling that kept Gray off the field his entire career. 2011 required his presence in the backfield, however.
Notre Dame fans will always remember Gray fumbling at the goal line in the first game of the season, a fumble that was returned 99 yards by South Florida for a touchdown that ultimately earned them a victory. Many fans thought it would be a very short season for Gray on the field or a very long season for Irish fans who'd have to watch incessant fumbling by the tailback.
After the South Florida fumble, Brian Kelly challenged Gray by asking him how he wanted to be remembered:
"As that guy that fumbled on the one-yard line or as that guy in your senior year that bounced back from some adversity and had an incredible season?"
That single moment changed Jonas Gray's career path as he made a decision that's apparent on the field—to be one of Notre Dame's great running backs.
Since the South Florida game, Gray has rushed for 730 yards on 103 carries. That's 7.1 yards per carry for the senior running back who now weighs 230 lbs. Gray also leads the Irish running attack with 11 touchdowns. Will he eclipse 1,000 yards rushing for 2011 in his last two regular season games?
Most importantly, Gray is looking more and more like he'll be Notre Dame's next successful NFL running back. He has an uncanny combination of size, speed and agility. It was this speed and quickness that allowed him to break away for his longest scoring run of the season, a 79-yard touchdown against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
As a senior, Gray has finally exploded on the scene for this 2011 Notre Dame football team and its fans. Will Irish faithful be blessed with the opportunity to watch him in the NFL, or are these Gray's last days?
Either way, it's likely most would agree to tell Jonas, "Thanks for all you've shown us."