Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Chip Scoggins wrote a nice column this week about the admirable way MarQueis Gray has handled the end of his quarterbacking dream, how he has remained a leader and a role model even though he's not calling the signals anymore.
I was reminded of that while chatting with Gray this week. It's not hard to see one important reason why he doesn't sit around and pout about his injury and his position switch: Football isn't the only thing in his life.
Gray, now 23 and a potential NFL prospect, was enthused to talk about the Gophers' bowl eligibility, and characteristically mentioned that he's most happy for the freshmen, because the experience will help the program get better once he's gone. "The new guys coming in, it's great for them to know what going to a bowl game feels like, so they have that taste in their mouth for years to come," Gray said. "They can go again."
He also talked about the importance of not losing whatever momentum the Gophers have gained from winning two of their last three games, and not thinking that they can coast now that their No. 1 goal for the season has been accomplished. "I would like to hope that nobody on our team has that mentality," the senior from Indianapolis said. "The mentality that's going around in the locker room is, we're trying to win out. The more games we win, the better bowl we go to. Anything is possible in college football, especially in the Big Ten."
But Gray really lit up when he talked about the real highlight of last weekend. Not the 17-3 victory over Illinois, but the birthday party he and his fiancee threw for his 1-year-old twin sons, MarShawn and MarZell.
"We went to Chuck E. Cheese. They sat in their little high chairs, watched Chuck E. for a liittle bit, saw all the lights," he said. "We had a couple of friends come play with them, so they had a good time."
Sounded like he did, too. Especially because -- talk about a revelation -- he likes the food there. "It's the best pizza," Gray said. "I love their pizza."
Gopher football and his family life will intersect once more next month -- or so he hopes. Once the Gophers accept a bowl invitation, they are allowed to schedule 15 additional practices in December. Which would be great, except Gray and his longtime girlfriend Alley Behr are planning to get married in four weeks -- on 12/12/12. (The symmetry matches their sons' birthdate of 11/11/11.)
So what if practice conflicts with the wedding? Has he worked that out yet with Coach Jerry Kill?
"I don't know. I have no idea," Gray said. "Hopefully something can be done."
What about it, Coach? Does he have your blessing?
"He hasn't said anything to me about it yet," Kill said with smile. "He's probably scared to."
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