By Laura Owens
Special to The Tuscaloosa News

HOOVER – As one of 12 seniors on Mississippi State’s roster coming into the 2017 season, wide receiver Donald Gray admitted taking on a more vocal role did not come naturally to him, but he’s working on it.

“I was kind of the one that wanted to be in the back and let my work speak for itself, but I had to embrace the uncomfortable role, and there’s no better feeling of being comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” Gray said.

His work last year included averaging 17.3 yards per reception and contributing five touchdowns for the season. He was second on the team in receptions, behind Fred Ross, a senior who had 30 more receptions in the No. 1 receiving spot and has also graduated to the NFL. Gray comes into this year as the most seasoned wide receiver among a very young unit and knows he has a lot to live up to.

“You really can’t replace (Ross),” Gray said. “He was the best that I’ve ever seen, ever been with. I learned a lot from him. As far as that, I just try to build off what he left. I try to match or go beyond because that’s what he’ll want me to do.”

For however much work it will take for Gray to supersede Ross’ senior season, head coach Dan Mullen said he’s already started putting in that hard work.

“He’s one of the first guys in the building, last one to leave every single day,” Mullen said. “Working to make sure that he’s uncovered every stone to develop himself to be the best player he can be for this upcoming season.”

Fellow senior and offensive lineman Martinas Rankin said he and Gray came to Mississippi State at the same time, and that Gray has shown consistency as well as versatility.

“When you need a laugh, he got you,” Rankin said. “When it’s time to do work, he’s going to get it done. If he had to go play defense, he could probably go do that. That’s the type of person he is. It doesn’t matter what needs to be done, he’ll do it.”