For the past two years, life seemed so simple, and fun for Brent Gray. But something was missing.
Before this year, many knew Gray for his speed on the track. He was seen during the spring running for Corona del Mar High. But for Gray something was missing.
He wanted to rejoin his buddies he played football with as freshmen. Back then they won the Pacific Coast League title.
How fun would it be to play football again, he thought. His friends told him how great they could become again. Gray quickly ran back to football.
Now, he's the Sea Kings' top receiver. The senior is one of the key players for CdM, which plays against Anaheim in a CIF Southern Section Southern Division quarterfinal game Friday night at 7 at Estancia High.
Gray helped CdM (9-1-1) advance past the first round last week. He caught six passes from his friend and quarterback Mitch Gardner. Gray turned those receptions into 112 yards and a touchdown in the Sea Kings' 21-12 victory over Ocean View.
"You're always a bit skeptical when a kid comes out for football that hasn't before," CdM Coach Jason Hitchens said. "You don't know if they're able to handle the grind, the two-a-days. A lot of the kids can't acclimate. He had a period in the spring when he wasn't sure. But then he came out and hasn't missed a day since then.
"When he came out he had a real willingness that he wanted to learn the postion. He works extremely hard at becoming a better receiver. With him you have the inexperience, but you have the eagerness that has really benefited him."
Gray says he didn't play football as a sophomore and a junior because he strained his back while training for track. His doctor advised him to stay away from a physical game like football. Running was fine. Actually it was more than fine this past spring.
Gray won PCL titles in the 100 meters and 200, and he was also a part of the 4x100 relay team that won a league championship. He was named Co-MVP of the PCL finals.
Gray, whose top time in the 100 is 10.8 and a 22.1 in the 200, also helped the Sea Kings' 4x100 relay team finish sixth in CIF Southern Section Division III.
Cole Cottrell, now a teammate on the football squad, was also on that relay team. Now they want to help the Sea Kings win a CIF championship.
Right now, Gray is just more concerned with getting to the semifinals. For all the success that CdM has garnered — an outright PCL title and a No. 2 seed in the playoffs — Gray believes there is so much more. He knows it starts with him and he knows the Sea Kings are capable of greatness.
"We've been playing good," he said. "But we haven't played to our full potential yet. And, once we do I feel like it's going to be crazy."
Gray admits he continues to learn about football and his position as receiver, but he presses on toward reaching his potential. Early in last week's game against Ocean View, Gray dropped a would-be touchdown pass. But he made up for it with a couple big grabs, including a 34-touchdown reception that gave CdM a lead they would not give up.
"We all still make mistakes," Gray said. "I feel like when we eliminate those, we'll be unstoppable."
Gray hasn't done so bad as he learns on the job with 37 catches, 595 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. He is averaging 16 yards per catch.
Early on he struggled with routes, but he said his coaches helped him each practice. It has also helped to have friends.
He's had fun playing on a team with Gardner, Peter Markel, Austin Jones and Alex Herrera. They want the fun to end with a CIF title.