MESA, Ariz. – Underneath DB VIRGIL GRAY’s rugged football exterior lies a humble and laid back man who approaches football as he lives his life, with a serene confidence and the demeanor of a silent assassin.
While most think of professional athletes as ego-driven, and unapproachable, Gray is quite the opposite. Life comes down to three things for the defensive back: religion comes first, as Gray has four ministers in his family and parents that are devout Evangelists, speed comes second and football intelligence is third.
The league leader’s modest composure and values leave some strangers walking away not knowing that he is a professional football player.
“It all came from growing up surrounded by family, church and a strong belief in God,” says Gray. “My parents have always been there for me, telling me to have faith and be thankful for what I have, no matter where I play or what I do.”
Gray’s ball-hawking abilities have allowed him to snare 11 interceptions and be a catalyst for an Arizona defense that leads the league in turnover differential at +36. But Gray is not a one trick pony; he is also one of the most electrifying return men in the game. His six kick returns for touchdowns and 23.2 yard average per kick return lead the AFL – and he has no plans of easing up.
When Gray is on the football field his play is anything but quiet, and his opponents have taken notice. Many have tried to get inside his head with competitive and cocky words – it hasn’t worked in their favor.
“I feed on it, it just makes me mad, and I play better when I’m mad,” says Gray. “I want to win, whether it’s at video games or professional football, I’m just a competitive guy.”
During the offseason he trains in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia with his former track coach, and surrounds himself with people who have similar goals and beliefs.
“To be a good football player you have to be willing to learn, to be coachable,” said Gray. “Some guys just get stuck in their ways and don’t improve.”
The Rattlers’ 17-2 record, that has been spearheaded by its fourth ranked defense, is a beneficiary of Gray’s aggressive play – even if he is a silent assassin.
“Do all that you can and you will be rewarded,” says Gray.
By Michael Guthrie-Maston