By: Greg Levinsky
Lacrosse has always been Chris Gray’s sport, he has been nothing short of brilliant thus far in his Boston University career. However, it was on the gridiron where he honed certain skills that complemented his primary sport.
Watching the 5-foot-7, 150 pound Gray attack the goal and sift his way through defenses is magical. Part of this comes from his experience as a football player.
“The things that you get taught in football, and the things that you apply in football games definitely translate onto the lacrosse field like change of direction, [and] physicality,” Gray said.
As a junior at Shoreham Wading River, Gray amassed 2,179 yards with 37 touchdowns on the ground as a running back, and played both ways as a defensive back. As a senior, he averaged a blistering 8.7 yards per carry and 181.0 rushing yards per game. He never considered playing college football.
“Lacrosse has always been my main sport,” Gray said. “Football’s been something I’ve done because I love the sport, but I’ve always been a lacrosse guy for college.”
Boston University Men’s Lacrosse head coach Ryan Polley, who played football, basketball and lacrosse at nearby Division 2 Merrimack, said he sees Gray’s football prowess translate to the lacrosse field. He said the mental and physical toughness from the gridiron translated to lacrosse. When Gray played running back, he was the center of attention for opposing defenses, and as the lacrosse season continues, he is seeing the same sort of defensive pressure.
“He continues to be our primary playmaker, and I just think his physical and mental toughness have allowed him to keep going against these guys,” Polley said. “He’s taken the brunt of some really good players and handled it really well while continuing to get his teammates involved.”
The freshman attack is putting together arguably the finest season among lacrosse rookies in the country. The Wading River, N.Y. native came to the program with high expectations coupled with his own personal high aspirations. Entering the 2018 season, Gray earned the 11th spot on Inside Lacrosse’s Power 100 Freshman Rankings. Named a 2017 U.S. Lacrosse All-American, Under Armour All-American and Suffolk County Attackman and Player of the Year, Gray’s success is not a shock.
In his debut, Gray recorded two goals and five assists in the Terriers season-opening 12-11 overtime win against Providence. He even assisted on sophomore John MacLean’s game-winning goal.
“That first game, I wanted to be ready to go and just forget about high school and move into college,” Gray said. “My teammates did a good job getting me adjusted, same with the coaches.”
He credits seniors Jack Wilson and Ryan Hilburn, Hayden Ruiz, junior James Burr and MacLean not only as skilled teammates on the field, but guides in his first foray into collegiate lacrosse.
“Right off the bat, these upperclassmen, even the sophomores just got the freshman adjusted,” Gray said. “They’ve been great with us in just teaching us what to do and not to do, and what it means to BU lacrosse player.”
“We thought that Chris had the chance to become a really special player even as a freshman,” Polley said. “He’s exceeded every one of my expectations.”
Just over midway through the season, Gray leads all NCAA freshman in assists (30), and is second in points (49) for the Terriers (6-6, 2-4 Patriot League). Gray also has 19 goals, including three hat tricks.
His true coming out party came in the Terriers 19-18 overtime loss at Harvard on March 20. Gray recorded a single-game program record in both points and assists, finishing with two goals and eight helpers. That effort also helped to extend his streak with at least two goals and two assists to four games. He earned Patriot League Rookie of the Week for his performance. Gray also earned a spot on SportsCenter Top 10.
“He’s turned into the ultimate playmaker,” Polley said. “Certainly, he’s getting his share of shots and opportunities, but he has this ability to make his teammates better and share the ball, see the open player.”
For Gray, personal accolades are meaningless when it comes to the team’s bigger goals.
“Winning the Patriot League tournament was definitely a big goal for everyone on the team,” Gray said. “It’s not really too much about individual stats for our team, and that’s what is so important about us.”