By: Justin Kelm
Nestled in East Texas is a program that I’ve covered for many years. East Texas Baptist University, home of the Tigers. ETBU is a private Baptist university in Marshall, Texas. The Tigers are members of The American Southwest Conference.
This is a NCAA Division III Member Conference. Senior Wide Receiver Tariq Gray is one to watch. Gray who played at Henderson High School is no stranger to the American Southwest Conference. Before transferring to ETBU, Gray played at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas.
While at HPU, Gray was named All-Conference Utility. While at Henderson, he helped his football team advance to the State Quarterfinals. Gray also made Regional Qualifier appearances before graduating in 2017. He received First Team All-District while participating in basketball and track and field as well. In 2017 with HPU, he played in four games, catching 12 passes for 144 yards to go along with one touchdown. He also returned six kicks for 91 yards.
Gray is a Swiss Army knife and can do it all. From playing offense to playing on defense. He performs when called upon. Since coming to ETBU, he has been a staple of the Tigers offense. During this past spring season, Gray hauled in two touchdown passes. One against the perennial powerhouse of Division III, Mary Hardin-Baylor. Playing ten full games this fall is something Gray is looking forward to the most.
What does it mean to play for ETBU?
It means a lot playing for ETBU. Coming out of high school leaving a powerhouse at the time in HISD where our head coach Phil Castles led us through Christ and football was big for me. Leaving high school was tough when I attended Howard Payne University in Brownwood Tx, due to just a totally different culture then what I was used to. After two years there I brought my talents to ETBU in fall 2019, and since then I feel as if I’ve been growing my connection with God again and just gaining more overall knowledge of how to be a good person. The change of losing every game at HPU to actually having a potential breakthrough year here at ETBU is major for me, and I feel it would be also for any man who doesn’t like to lose.
What are your goals for this fall season?
My main goal as a whole for the upcoming season is to win a conference title and get the chance to chase a ring in the playoffs. I feel we have the power and talent to definitely beat teams that aren’t used to losing to ETBU in the past. Personal goals would have to be obtaining an All American award for myself, and to lead my team to victory and help out as much as I possibly can. The work I’ve put it all summer will allow me to do that I believe, so I’m looking forward to it.
How was it playing a spring season instead of a fall season? How did you prepare?
This past spring was very different in regards to what we’re used to as athletes in dealing with the whole Covid outbreak. We handled it well, but the 5 game season was definitely something to adjust to. All fall was scheduled full of practices that were full of competition, so it just added time for extra preparation in which I’ll never complain about. With us only playing 5 games it was not much time to really get in a rhythm as a receiver, but I trained the same if not harder than the usual. It was an alright short season, though I can’t wait to see what the fall has in store for me.
- All-ASC Honorable Mention (2019)
- Catches: 8 at UW-Platteville (9/7/19)
- Yards: 79 at UW-Platteville (9/7/19)
- Longest Catch: 28 at Mary Hardin-Baylor (10/12/19)
- Receiving Touchdowns: 1, 3 times; last vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor (3/6/21)
- Tackles: 1, 3 times; last at Louisiana College (2/27/21)
- Solo: 1, 2 times; last at Southwestern (2/6/21)
- Assisted: 1 at Louisiana College (2/27/21)
- Return: 1 vs. Texas Lutheran (3/27/21)
- Return Yards: 24 vs. Texas Lutheran (3/27/21)
- Average: 24.0 vs. Texas Lutheran (3/27/21)
- Longest Return: 24 vs. Texas Lutheran (3/27/21)
Spring 2021 (Junior)
- Played five games
- Recorded 11 catches for 180 yards, including four for 60 vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor (3/6/21)
- Caught a touchdown pass at Southwestern (2/6/21) and Mary Hardin-Baylor (3/6/21)
- Returned three kicks for 50 yards including two for 26 vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor (3/6/21)
- Returned three punts for 16 yards including two for 19 vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor (3/6/21)
- Played 10 games
- Caught 35 passes for 370 yards, including 79 at Wisconsin-Platteville (9/7/19)
- Caught a touchdown pass as Wisconsin-Platteville (9/7/19) and Howard Payne (10/26/19)
- Recorded a tackle vs. UMHB (10/12/19)
Howard Payne University
- All-Conference Utility
Henderson High School
- Honor Roll