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Athlete of the Issue: Donnie Gray
Nate Zucker '22 Staff Writer
October 31, 2020

Donnie Gray‘21 exemplifies an outstanding Deerfield athlete: he’s competitive, humble, and always one of the hardest workers in the room. Coming to Deerfield from New Haven, Connecticut, Donnie has made an impact on and off the football field for the past three years. 

At Deerfield, Gray has played on both sides of the ball. He is both a wide receiver and a cornerback, but  he will stick to playing wide receiver in college. While he has Donnie also played on the boys varsity basketball team last year, footballbut football remains is his main focus. His Donnie’s incredible speed and playmaking ability sets him apart from his competition. Anyone who has seen him play knows the kinds of dazzling plays he makes. He Donnie comes up with big interceptions, returns impossible punts for touchdowns, runs short screen passes 40+ yards into the endzone, and catches deep balls when his team needs him. 

Gray played an important role in leading Deerfield to its historic wins against Choate and Milton Academy last season. He was also selected as a 2019 All-NEPSAC honorable mention.

Joe LoChiatto ’22, a teammate of Gray’s since last season, said, “Last year, whenever we needed a big play, he was there for us.” GrayDonnie’s performances have earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches alike, but what truly sets him apart is his work ethic. the example he sets with his work ethic is also notable.

All successful athletes try to get better outside of practice, but Gray goes a step further. Throughout his time at Deerfield, Gray has woken up at 5:30am just about every day to work on his footwork, speed, strength, and conditioning. If you’re up early during the school week, you have ’ve probably seen Gray and his teammate Cortland Dicks ’21 walking to or from their workout at least once. 

Andrew Philie, one of Donnie’s football coaches for the previous two seasons, commented on Gray’s unparalleled work ethic., “He’s relentless in his pursuit of excellence,” he said.  … h”He’s humble, and he puts his head down and works.” While Gray Donnie usually leads with his quiet confidence and exemplary resolve, he’sbut he’s grown into someone who can lead with his voice, too. 

When asked to reflect on coming to Deerfield, Gray said, “at my old high school, my coaches didn’t really care about me outside of football, but Coach Barbato was different from the day I met him.” Expressing his gratitude for his coaches, hHe added,“The whole coaching staff here have helped me become a better person.” 

Gray also said his teammates have had a significant impact on him, and he values the bonds he has formed with them. Teammate Cooper Pertchik ’22 said, “Donnie makes a point of getting to know new players and knowing everyone’s name at the start of the season.”

Head Coach Brian Barbato knows Gray well, and has always been impressed by his “innate ability to turn it on.” Coach Mr. Barbato added, “He plays best against the best–the idea that “iron sharpens iron” was something that drew him into Deerfield.” Fortunately, Gray will continue to play against good competition next year. 

In March, Gray committed to play Division I football on a full scholarship at Northwestern University, an institution known for academic excellence and with an outstanding football program. He will face off against some major very good Big 10 defenses and will have the chance to bring his game to the next level playing for the Wildcats.

With a number of other impressive offers, Gray said his decision came down to coaching. He recalled, “After being coached by Mr. Barbato for 3 years, I knew what a good coach looked like. When I met Pat Fitzgerald [Northwestern’s coach], I knew he was the guy I wanted to play for.”

Gray has inspired many with his tremendous work ethic, incredible play, and kind demeanor, and he will certainly be missed at Deerfield next year. Hopefully, we’ll get to see Gray play on Jim Smith field at least one more time—, but regardless, his future at Northwestern is bright.