"You can believe this or not," said Derwin Gray, BYU's latest football phenom from Texas. "But I had a dream this week that I would get a pick - and when I got it, it was exactly like what I saw in my dream."
A pick, of course, is an interception, and Gray, of course, is from Texas. Every time you turn around in a BYU football game these days there's somebody from the Lone Star State doing the kind of incredible feats that very soon are going to have University of Texas alumni doubling the patrols at the border.First there's the Texan Ty Detmer, BYU's quarterback, who is trying to win a Heisman Trophy by way of Provo, Utah. Now there's the Texan Derwin Gray, BYU's weakside safety, who gets the first start of his collegiate life Saturday against New Mexico and responds with three interceptions and a touchdown.
The three interceptions tied a school record shared by five others. Since Gray got his third interception just minutes into the third quarter, he had an excellent chance to knock the five others (namely: Jeff Wilcox, Tony Hernandez, Bobby Roberts, Gene Frantz and Dave Atkinson) out of the record book. But he was his own worst enemy, in a way, when he took that interception and ran 17 yards to the end zone, making the score 48-21 for the Cougars.
Playing time for starters was severely limited after that. Detmer's included. When he sat down with his 464 yards and five touchdown passes, it was with much more than a quarter yet to play.
Not only are Detmer and Gray both Texans, they are both from San Antonio. They both have a habit of calling anyone older than them "sir." They both think Provo could is sorely lacking in adequate barbecues. And now they've both managed to become starters at BYU as sophomores.
Gray is three years younger than Detmer, and remembers reading about him in the newspaper when Detmer was a high school sensation and they were both growing up in San Antonio, although on opposite ends of the city. But it wasn't necessarily because of Detmer that Gray decided to accept BYU's scholarship offer over USC, Texas Christian, Houston and Kansas State.
"BYU showed the most interest in me," said Gray. "That, and the fact that they throw the ball so much in the WAC, that's why I came here."
Gray said he has never had much of a desire to line up on the side of the ball that Detmer lines up on.
"I have a motto," he said. "It's better to give than receive."
In his first start - he'd backed up Norm Dixon and Josh Arnold to this point of the season - he gave New Mexico's receivers all kinds of trouble. The Lobos kept throwing into a Gray area.
"Their strategy," said Gray, "was to hit the open guy - and he wasn't open."
On the interception that he turned into the touchdown, Gray moved in front of a ball that had already been tipped by Arnold.
"It was just grass between me and the end zone," he said. "I couldn't do anything but score. They practically gave it to me."
Gray was given the starting job because, as defensive backfield coach Dick Felt said, "He's been coming off the bench all year and doing a good job. We've been rotating the three safeties anyway. We thought he deserved a chance to start."
Gray wore the soft-tape cast he's worn on his left wrist since the second game of the season, against Miami, when he tried to block a punt and fell on his hand, breaking a bone.
"It hampers me a little when I'm tackling," he said.
"But not when I'm catching."
The coaches told Gray he would be starting last Monday.
That very night he had the dream.
"Actually, I dreamed I'd have four interceptions," he said. "I guess I've got to dream harder."
Or keep the score closer.
"He's a good athlete," said Detmer of his fellow San Antonian. "We were giving him a bad time in practice, about two interceptions he almost got last game. He told me he was going to make up for it this week. I guess he did."
It's been that kind of a year for Texans at BYU. First Detmer, now Gray. Talk about a big season. As any Texan will tell you, there's no football like Texas football - even when they don't play it in Texas.