Having to sit out an entire season might demoralize some players, but Quisean Gray has fought through the disappointment and, finally, is raring to go at Capital.
Gray, the leading rusher at Riverside as a freshman in 2015, transferred to Capital the following school year, but was forced to sit out his sophomore season under Kanawha County and SSAC regulations.
Now a junior, he’s finally returned to the practice field and hopes to carve out a role for himself in the crowded Cougars’ backfield that returns a lot of regulars.
“I haven’t coached him before,’’ said Capital’s Jon Carpenter, “but it seems to me that’s made him awfully ready to go. He’s like a lion in a cage. I think he’s upset about it. You see all these other people [transferring] and he thinks, ‘Why do I have to sit out a year?’
“You hate to see that. It was heartbreaking. It’d be real easy to say the world’s against you, and life ain’t fair and just want to quit everything. But I think he’s turned it into something good.’’
Gray, who ran for 725 yards and seven touchdowns for Riverside two years ago, said the situation was better for him at Capital, where his father had played.
“I just feel like Capital was a better fit,’’ Gray said. “Riverside wasn’t really what I was looking for, so I wanted to go ahead and come over here.’’
Gray, who enrolled at Capital in August of 2016, showed up at the first few practices last season before word come down that he was ineligible.
“They said he couldn’t play,’’ Carpenter said, “which I don’t understand how that works. How many times this year have you seen where people transferred schools [and were eligible to play], and it was celebrated in most cases.
“You’re talking about a 14-, 15-year-old kid and when it first happened, you were worried. You’re thinking, ‘Good God, he may not ever show up again.’ ’’
Since he became head coach in 2010, Carpenter knows of three athletes who had to sit out a year after transferring to Capital — R.J. Symns (basketball and football), De’quon Miller (basketball) and Gray. Symns and Miller left George Washington for Capital.
Gray tried to make the best of a bad situation last year, showing up for Cougars practices and traveling with the team. He also lifted weights in the off-season, but didn’t take part in football drills until this past June.
“It was heartbreaking,’’ Gray said. “I didn’t like it at all, because football is my life. I just had to stay in the weight room and let my team know I was serious about coming here and getting a state [championship] ring, just like them. I just liked being around them.’’
Carpenter realizes Gray, who has added 15 pounds of muscle and now stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 190, could have most likely found another school and another opportunity to play in the 2016 season, but he stuck with the Cougars.
“He had chances to go other places, and could have played somewhere else last year,’’ Carpenter said. “I’m impressed with his willingness to sit out when there were other options. I’m tickled to death for him, because we’re in the education business and we’re here to try to put them on the path [to success], and for him it was seeing how unfair things are.’’
Nothing will come easily for Gray in the Capital backfield, which returns experienced tailbacks in Deshaun James and Breece Hoff, along with fullback Kalai Clark and quarterback Kerry Martin Jr. Those four combined to carry the ball 287 times last fall.
“I feel like they’ll give me what I need to do,’’ Gray said. “I feel like I fit in; it’s just on the timing, when they need me. Whenever I come in, I’ll do what I have to do.
“As long as I’m active and out here working, I feel like I’ll be better than I was last year anyway.’’
Carpenter thinks Gray will mesh with the returning players quite easily.
“I think he fits right in,’’ Carpenter said. “He can play for everybody. The relationships are good. He showed up with us and traveled with us. That’s what made him stay here, the fact he got along well with the kids. He’s kin to a lot of them, he knows a lot of them, he played midget league with a lot of them. He’s a Charleston kid at heart, and this is a real easy place to get acclimated to socially.’’