The CFL.ca Draft Tracker sat open on the computer browser.
Kurtis Gray and family waited to see where he would land.
With the 31st pick in the CFL Draft, the Calgary Stampeders have selected linebacker Kurtis Gray, Waterloo.
“I actually got the phone call before my name was posted to the board, so my dad and brother were refreshing the page,” Gray explained. “I didn’t have time to let them know what was going on with the phone call, so while I’m on the call they saw my name pop up and they started congratulating me and tried to listen in. As soon as I ended that call, we celebrated together and it was awesome.
“It was definitely a different experience than what I was anticipating leading up to it. I was expecting to be with friends and teammates from Waterloo, but it was great to be able to sit down with my dad and brother and watch the draft. It was great to hear my name get called and especially by an organization that I was really hoping to end up with, so that was really exciting for me. It kind of took me by surprise a bit where I got taken, but I’m very, very happy to be going to Calgary. I’ve been looking at the organization for a long time now and I’ve been following what they’ve been doing. I haven’t been to Calgary personally, but it’s a place I want to check out and I’m glad this is all working out the way it is.”
Ending up here was a Gray’s ultimate hope.
Having positive experiences through team interviews, his relationship with linebacker’s coach Dwayne Cameron, and having watched the team in recent seasons, Gray had the Stamps high on his draft destination wish list.
“I’d say it’s a culmination of all of that,” he said. “Watching the athletes that Calgary has produced; Alex Singleton was a guy that I looked up to growing up, when I was starting out with football. Then, of course, the coaching staff is super nice and knowledgeable. Having a local connection with Dwayne Cameron really helps. He gave me an inside scoop about what Calgary’s all about and I think I really trusted his insight on them and it went from there.
“All of the talks that I’ve had with Calgary from the beginning have added to my image of them and it’s all been positive.
“Dwayne, we’re from the same city. He did some recruiting with me in high school, trying to get me to come to Laurier, but I ended up deciding to go to Waterloo. He had an eye on me for the last four years since our schools play each other every year. He knows me that way and then at the East-West game this past year, he was the defensive coordinator, so we finally got to work together and I think we had a pretty great relationship there.”
Seems like Coach Cameron finally got his guy.
And that player is a 6-foot-3, 200-lb. linebacker who demonstrated his nose for the ball in 2019 by recording 70 tackles, four sacks, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions, and three pass break-ups.
“I definitely like to play fast and I like to play full-speed. A lot of people describe me as a high-motor player,” Gray explained. “I’m always going from the start of the snap to the end of the play. I’m going to make my way to the ball, wherever it may be. I’ve played linebacker and defensive back, I’ve had various different roles inside the box or in coverages, I’ve played special teams, and I’ve even made some plays on offence. I like to command the defence, I definitely like to lead the guys that are around me and make sure we are on the same page. I’m a big communicator on the field.
“Playing as a SAM linebacker in Canadian football is a fun spot to be, especially as a long, fast guy. I have a chance to put myself in all sorts of different windows in the passing game. That was one of my strengths, being able to take away those throwing lanes and zones. I’d say being around the ball is something that I was known for at Waterloo.”
The two-time OUA all-star and all-rookie team member can’t wait to get his pro career started here.
“I’ve got a pretty vague sense of Calgary so far, like what the culture is like inside the locker-room. I’m really looking forward to getting out there and meeting the guys,” he said. “I’ve been travelling out West before and I love the environment, the landscape, and the mountains. I’m excited to be there and get a feel for what the organization is all about.”