For 24-year-old Jonas Gray, most of the football watching nation had never heard of him until he let loose on Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts, carrying the ball 37 times for a career-high 201 yards and a New England Patriots franchise record four touchdowns in a 42-20 rout.
Gray, who is on the national cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, had just 131 career rushing yards before the game.
But this seems to be the Patriots way for most of the past decade and a half: Finding players to fit the system, whether you know their names or not.
Gray played his ball at Notre Dame and tried his hand at comedy, once opening for actor Dustin Diamond, best known as Screech from Saved by the Bell.
It’s the Patriots who are laughing now at the rest of the league because of their latest find, a 5-foot-10 inch, 225-pound bruiser from Pontiac, Mich. Gray's effort Monday has helped the Patriots to a 8-2 record and a two-game cushion in the AFC East.
Gray says he knows that New England does things differently that most teams in the NFL.
“I’ve been on two other teams, but [nothing] compares to here,” Gray said. “Everybody comes to work. They know what the schedule is. They stay late. They put in extra time. It’s about winning and it’s not about winning. It’s about the process.
For more on Gray and the Patriots, check out Greg Bishop's story in this week's Sports Illustrated (subscribe here).
Also in this issue: features on the Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Baltimore Ravens receiver Steve Smith, the revival of the Phoenix Suns, and Thomas Lake's story on the heartbreak of the 2013 Iron Bowl.
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2014 Sports Illustrated Covers