While the 2011 varsity football Fighting Scots journeyed through a landmark season, there were those who sat on the sidelines patiently awaiting their shot at glory.
Current Scotland wide receiver Tra’Shawn Gregory was one of those players.
An every day starter since he first stepped onto a football field, Gregory took it hard when he didn’t play a single snap during last season’s 15-0 state championship campaign.
But rather than allow himself to feel discouraged, Gregory used it as motivation. And like several of his fellow senior teammates, Gregory has made the most of his final season in blue and red.
“Every practice and every game last year moved me one step closer to starting,” Gregory said. “I worked hard and never gave up, because when the opportunity comes you have to step up and be the man you always wanted to be. As juniors, we all knew this would be the year to prove ourselves.”
Against the Jack Britt Buccaneers a few short weeks ago, the 6’3” Gregory quietly studied the defensive back tasked with covering him. He paid attention to his habits, and noticed the shorter cornerback’s tendency to “play on the inside” of Gregory in coverage.
Gregory would signal to the Scotland coaching staff that he wanted to run the fade route, which would exploit his height advantage over the 5’10” Jack Britt defensive back.
The Fighting Scots obliged, and it worked. Time and time again.
“My motto this season has been ‘no corner can hold me,’ because no matter how tall or skilled you are I’m going up to get that football,” said Gregory, who had 120 receiving yards and three reception touchdowns in Scotland’s 32-6 rout of the Buccaneers. It was a breakout game for Gregory, who has six receiving touchdowns thus far this season which have all come from the fade route.
“Coach (Richard Bailey) said that big players step up in big games, and it meant a lot that my coaches trusted me. If I think I can beat a cornerback then they do too.”
Along with Tralen Jones, Justin Brown and Tyron Jones (who is also 6’3”), Gregory is part of a Scotland wide receiving core that has helped accelerate the growth of sophomore quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe. And all of them are seniors.
In addition to being big, athletic targets for Ratliffe to rely upon, all of Scotland’s receivers work with the first-year starting QB after practice on routes and chemistry. And the extra work has paid dividends for the young signal-caller, as Ratliffe has thus far thrown nine passing touchdowns to just two interceptions, while also completing 63% of his passes.
“I never was a pocket passer, but now I feel comfortable back there,” said Ratliffe, who also credits the play of his offense in general for furthering along his progression. “It’s made my confidence higher knowing that I can throw a pass and that those guys will go up and catch it. I’m not always the most accurate passer, but they’ll readjust and still grab the ball anyways.”
Scotland head coach Richard Bailey knew he had something special during the summer months as he watched Gregory during seven-on-seven scrimmages. But now that the word is officially out on Gregory’s ability, things will undoubtedly become more difficult for the wide-out as teams prepare to stop him.
Yet, Bailey remains excited to watch Gregory and the rest of the Fighting Scots’ seniors make the most of the playing time they’ve waited for their entire lives.
“Scotland was one talented team last season, but frankly it’s hard to believe that a player the caliber of Tra’Shawn was sitting on the bench last year,” Bailey said. “When I talk to the junior varsity squad, I always use Tra’Shawn as an example of a player that worked hard, remained patient and found success his senior year. We have a lot of guys just like that on this team, and it shows that everyone will have their day at some point.”