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January 3, 2008Four-star running back Jonas Gray of Detroit Country Day has agreed to do a diary for Rivals.com about his experiences leading up to and during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The game will be played at 1 p.m. EST on Jan. 5 and broadcast live on NBC. Players reported to San Antonio on Sunday and practices began on Monday. Gray will share his thoughts from San Antonio with Rivals.com each day.
SAN ANTONIO - Yesterday we got a chance to meet our Soldier Heroes. Mine was a big Purdue fan and didn't like Notre Dame too much, but that was OK. We got a chance to talk about football a little bit. He never played football, but he always liked it a lot. He liked the Cincinnati Bengals which is one of my favorite teams too.
Last night, we had some competitions between the East and West like a push-up competition and a sit-up competition. I got a chance to see Boubacar Cissoko knock out a lot of push-ups out and sit-ups too. Boubacar did around 60 push-ups in a minute, which was pretty good. I got a chance to hear Brandon Newman sing. I knew he had a good voice, but it wasn't a good song that he was singing. It was Alicia Keys "A Woman's Worth."
I got up this morning and went to go see the trainer. Everything went well. Last night, I took some medicine the doctor prescribed for me and I woke up this morning and felt great. I felt like I could go out and practice but as I was leaving to go out to the bus, one of the Army guys grabbed me and told me to run and get my jersey.
I got my jersey and they took me to City Hall to present the Mayor with a football. I had no idea about it. They had us talking and I didn't know what to say, but I did a good job of it. I talked about how San Antonio was a good venue for the Army Game and thanked the Army and Rotary Club.
As soon as we were done with that, I went back to practice at the stadium, got my stuff on and was ready to go out, but there was only 30 minutes left in the practice so I just waited to do the second session. I was ready to do the second session, but our coach let us go in shorts and no shoulder pads so I didn't get any contact even though I wanted it. We sat around and talked about how we were going to come on and off the field, what we were going to do for our pregame warmup and things like that.
The coach told us who the starters were for the game. He said Ryan Williams was going to start, Lamaar Thomas was going to go second string and I was going to go third string. He told me the reason why was because those guys had practiced all week which I understood and which was fair, but it was kind of a motivation thing too.
The way he is doing it is, we each get eight carries, so Ryan gets eight, Lamaar gets eight and I get the next eight. The second half I will be the starter. I wanted to start the game and that was a big thing for me. People see you on television and after 16 plays if they don't see you they'll ask "Where are you?"
I have a confidence in my abilities and the first time I was out there I felt good. I never played with a line like we have here. I have good communication with those guys and I just feel I'm going to have a good game. I still want the MVP.
The coach let us out of practice early and I went over to the Junior Combine. I talked to a few of our guys and they talked about how there were some big guys there and they were intimidated. I told them to use that as motivation and those were the guys they had to go after.
My family came into town this afternoon - my mom and my brother - and I met up with them at Hard Rock Caf?I chilled with them for a second and when I got back here they were doing the Maxwell Award winners. Darrell Scott had won the Maxwell Award for the running backs and that was also a motivating factor. He got the award, so what I've got to do is go out and show everybody what I can do. I think people don't understand the things that I went through to become a good player.
This whole day has really been a motivational factor.
What I am going to do tonight is prepare for the game. I'm going to look at some film on the West players and do a little scouting report on my own. I have some scouting reports on some of the guys right now, so I'm ready.
• More Army All-American Bowl Coverage | U.S. Army All-American Bowl Rosters