Tyler Gray is definitely an idol for future football players at Templeton High.
That’s what happens when you earn a scholarship to a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision program.
Gray, a star outside linebacker for the Eagles, signed a national letter of intent with Hawaii on Wednesday afternoon.
“The youth league kids, they all know who Tyler Gray is,” Templeton coach Dave Harper said. “A lot of kids want to be No. 37 next year.”“I just encourage them to do their best,” Gray said, “and some day they will be here.”
He’s believed to be the first player in school history to sign with an FBS program directly out of high school and receive a full ride.
Two other Templeton grads over the past six years have also played at the Division I level. Teddy Dellaganna, a 2006 alumnus, recently wrapped up a three-year career as a punter at Rutgers, where he transferred after a one-year stint at Bakersfield College. And Jake Romanelli (2007) recently finished his redshirt junior season as an all-conference fullback at Cal Poly, which plays in the Championship Subdivision.
Gray made an official recruiting visit to Hawaii this past weekend.
He also had previously visited Air Force and Cal Poly — his other finalists — and San Jose State had also offered him a scholarship.
“I’m very excited,” Gray said. “I’m definitely glad the whole (process) is over, because it’s so stressful, all the things you have to go through for four, five years. So it’s a good relief.”
At first, Gray and his parents were a bit hesitant about leaving the mainland, but after his trip, any such qualms about the long distance away from home faded in light of everything the Warriors’ program had to offer.
“I had the best time on my trip,” Gray said. “I got along with people really well. I felt like I was part of the team by the time I left.”
Hawaii, which in 2012 will be joining the Mountain West Conference and leaving the Western Athletic Conference, went 10-4 this past season. The Warriors have made it to bowl games in seven of the past nine years.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Gray will likely be placed at the Warriors’ joker position, Harper said, “where he’ll be rushing from either side depending on what the play call was in the huddle.”
Gray was a Cal-Hi Sports all-state first-team honoree among medium-sized schools and also made MaxPreps.com’s all-state second team in the website’s Division III classification.
His other recent accolades include the Los Padres League Defensive Back of the Year award, as well as being named to the all-CIF Southern Section Northwest Division and Tribune all-San Luis Obispo County first teams.
Gray finished his three-year varsity career with 348 tackles. He made 143 tackles and had five sacks as a senior, leading the Eagles through an 8-5 season, culminating in a Northwest Division semifinals appearance.
Also a starter at running back, Gray rushed 205 times for 1,628 yards and 25 touchdowns.
At the next level, though, he’s expected to stay on defense. Over this past summer, Gray was named the best linebacker at the Randy Shannon Football Camp at Miami, and Rivals.com ranks him No. 42 at his position nationwide and as the No. 73 overall recruit in California.
His recruitment was also aided by John Spells, who oversees Speed Development, a specialized training regimen for local football and track standouts who maintain solid academic backgrounds and are hopeful of continuing their careers beyond the prep level.
“It comes around very seldom,” Harper said of reaching the highest level of college football, “and he’s worked very hard to accomplish these things.
“When I first saw him play, there was something special about him.”
Templeton, whose enrollment of about 800 students is almost always significantly lower than its competitors in the Northwest Division, advanced further in the postseason this past year than the program ever had since moving into the Southern Section before the 2006 campaign.
That’s the kind of legacy Gray will be remembered for long after he’s gone.
“If it motivates kids to stay in school, to do the right things so that they, too, can accomplish their dreams, that’s what I think is the biggest thing with him,” Harper said.
“We’ll have to have some kids fill some big shoes, but we think we have some kids that want to do that. And now, seeing what can happen, how hard work will pay off for you, it’s exciting for us.”