While the rest of his Dunbar teammates practiced on Tuesday afternoon, junior lineman Derwin Gray watched from beyond the football field, sitting on a concrete barrier, his headphones wrapped around his neck.
Gray, one of the area’s top recruits in the class of 2013, is academically ineligible for all but one game of Dunbar’s regular season. Gray — who already has scholarship offers from schools such as Auburn, Clemson and North Carolina — must sit out at least until the last week of October, when the first advisory period grades are released.
It’s another blow to the already reeling Dunbar team, traditionally one of the strongest teams in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association.
“It hurt me so bad because I want to be out here,” said Gray, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive lineman and defensive end. “But I can’t blame anybody but myself for not taking that important and not getting my grades together. Right now, this is just a learning experience, for me to be young right now.”
Gray was one of three academically ineligible players who participated in a Sept. 3 game, a 22-8 loss to Dunbar-Baltimore. Crimson Tide Coach Ashaa Cherry was fired Monday by D.C. Public School officials, in part, for allowing Gray and two other Dunbar players to play in that game.
DCPS officials also ruled that Dunbar must forfeits two DCIAA West games because of a fight that broke out in the Sept. 3 game, which was called with 4 minutes and 33 seconds left. Two other Crimson Tide players were suspended one game for their involvement in the fight.
Gray said he didn’t know he was ineligible to play in the Sept. 3 game. Gray, who didn’t play in last week’s 34-28 win over Southern Durham (N.C.), said he was told within the following days that his GPA wasn’t high enough to play.
If he earns a 2.0 GPA in the first period of this season, by late October, he could make it back onto the field if the Crimson Tide qualify for the playoffs. Dunbar’s final regular season game is against Coolidge on Nov. 4.
“My season ain’t done right now,” Gray said. “I’ll be back for playoffs.”
Some colleges may be reluctant to offer Gray this season while he doesn’t play. So far, Gray said no colleges have rescinded any scholarship offers. In fact, Tennessee offered last week after Gray said he was told he was academically ineligible.
“I think some of the college coaches might be a little hesitant with him not having grades, a 2.0,” Dunbar interim Coach Willie Bennett said. “But it’s only the first semester so he’s got three more semesters to get it right plus the summer.”
Dunbar Athletic Director Johnnie Walker said Monday he was appealing the two-game forfeit ruling. But until then, the Crimson Tide’s playoff chances have been hurt. Bennett said the team must continue even without Gray and two other teammates.
“The kids that actually come to practice every day, we have to get them ready and prepared to play in the game ,” Bennett said “. . . It’s going to hurt us a little bit because we don’t have some of the experienced players back on the field so we got to coach.”