Bay football stars Menard and Gray make signing decisions
Soccer star Taylor inks letter with Marquette
The Marquette University men's soccer team knows it is getting an All-American level defender in Whitefish Bay's Jake Taylor.
And the Drake (Iowa) University football team knows that it is getting a tough-as-nails, make-any-play-you-need-when-you-need-it quarterback in the Blue Dukes' Grant Menard.
But really, Northern Iowa University, you're going to put two-time NOW All-Suburban and second-team AP All-State running back Rashadeem Gray, a 5-9, 165 pound dynamo, who of course can hit the edge with the best of them, but who is also more than willing and capable enough to run the middle for you, at defensive back?
Gray, who with Taylor and Menard was involved in national signing ceremonies at Bay on Feb. 6, took the NIU decision with a grain of salt.
"That's where they want me," he said. "I'm not disappointed. I expected to play running back, but they have a really good established back. I filled in last fall (at defensive back) when we had some injuries, so I figure I can handle the job."
Besides, he's still hoping he can make an impression at running back.
The coaches at Northern Iowa (an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision school) would be silly if they didn't at least look at him at that position, as last fall, he and Menard led the Blue Dukes to their best-season in school history. The Blue Dukes recorded a North Shore Conference championship, WIAA Division 2 state semifinal season 10-2 record.
The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Star game selection ran for 1,683 yards on just 189 carries (8.9 ypc) with 24 TDs and caught 14 passes for 233 yards and two scores and, in his best effort, had 190 yards rushing and two TDs in a WIAA Level 3 road victory over Brookfield East.
Gray is also a two-time state qualifier in wrestling (he is aiming for a third berth Saturday in WIAA sectional competition) and was part of WIAA state champion 400- and 800-meter relay track teams in 2011.
The selection process for Gray came down to other regional NCAA football subdivision powers North Dakota and Western Illinois.
"Iowa was closer than North Dakota and they really liked me as an athlete," said Gray who plans to major in secondary education. "I'm glad this is all done. I've really been stressing about it. Now I can focus on my school work."
Menard, meanwhile is headed toward NCAA Division I-AA Drake. He had been recruited by Ivy League schools such as Penn and Princeton, but he went to a quarterback camp sponsored by the two-time Pioneer Football League champion Drake team last summer and made a big impression.
"The coach and I met there and we just really clicked," Menard said. "We're both intense guys. I took my official visit in late November and they wanted me to commit before the end of December, so I gave them my verbal commitment before Christmas.
"They just really liked my size (6-1, 190 pounds) and my willingness to win and said I was the top recruit coming out of that camp."
The willingness to win was on big display in the Blue Dukes' epic overtime loss to eventual state runner-up Waunakee, where Menard banged up his ankle late in the game (it would cost him a good chunk of the early basketball season) but refused to come out. He rallied Bay to get into the overtime and just missed out on a chance to extend the game further.
No one who saw his effort will forget it.
"What Grant did on that stage was phenomenal," said veteran Wisconsin State Journal reporter Dennis Semrau, who was covering Waunakee in that state semifinal. "How he handled the post-game media crunch was even more impressive."
Menard, who does a lot of the tough stuff as a power forward for the Blue Dukes basketball team and who is also a good baseball player, is also not afraid of challenges in the academic arena. Both his parents are lawyers so he plans a double major in history and journalism and hopes to get into Drake's six-year undergraduate/law school program.
He knows how to work.
"I can learn from my mistakes and I worked out a ton over the off-season to make myself better," he said. "It's been a journey so far, but I feel I'm just getting started."
Taylor was the first Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association state player of the year to be a defender since 2005 as he led the Blue Dukes to a 14-5-3 record that included a thrilling WIAA state sectional final loss to Brookfield East.
The NSCAA All-American selection had four goals and one assist this year.
Taylor also spent six years in the state US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program, and trained with the German Club Bayer Leverkusen in 2011 and has appeared in adult matches for the Bavarian SC Major and National Premier Soccer League.
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