E’lijah Gray had a familiar feeling the first time he stepped onto the campus of Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts.
“It was just like Holy Spirit,” Gray said. “Everybody there is to do one job and one job only — win a championship.”
The Holy Spirit High School senior running back will continue his football career at Merrimack on an NCAA Division I scholarship.
“It’s just amazing,” said Gray, of Somers Point. “I don’t have to worry about mom paying for college at all. It’s just great.”
Merrimack is a Football Championship Subdivision program that competes in the Northeast Conference. Under seventh-year coach Dan Curran, the Warriors finished 6-5 last fall.
Gray plans to major in health science and minor in business. He wants to own a training facility for younger football players when his playing days are over.
The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Gray led the Spartans to the state Non-Public II title last fall, rushing 168 times for 1,203 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was a first-team Press All-Star.
Gray may not be the biggest or fastest running back, but few high school athletes can match his career. Gray ran for 1,223 yards as a junior and 1,479 yards as a sophomore.
“E’lijah kind of has a chip on his shoulder right now,” Spirit coach A.J. Russo said. “That’s going to bode well for him. I’m not doubting him in one way shape or another.”
Gray was bit overlooked by some schools during the recruiting process, according to Russo.
“A lot of the college coaches look at (physical) measurables,” Russo said. “E’lijah doesn’t have a lot of the measurables that some of the bigger schools are looking at, but when steps on that football field, he has a lot of heart, and he’s a tremendous football player. Sometimes kids like that get missed. and they end up having great careers at other schools.”