HOLT, Mich.— Khari Gray jogged to the football sideline and sat out a couple of plays, something that is a rare sight. Minus standing backflips at the end of games, he is similar to Heisman Trophy candidate Jabrill Peppers of Michigan because he is always on the field.
Gray has lined up as a wide receiver, cornerback, took direct snaps in the wildcat, returned kicks on special teams, ran end-arounds, and contributed in all parts of the game this year.
Prior to 1940, teams used a one-platoon system where athletes played offense and defense because of small rosters and rules that limited substitutions. Football today uses a three-platoon system,with offense, defense, and special teams units.
It’s rare to find players that play on both sides of the ball, however, Holt head coach Chad Fulk is not afraid to use players in many ways. He has had nine players play offense and defense this season, three of them being senior leaders.
“I play them on both sides of the ball because they are the best options for that position,” Fulk said. “We don’t have the depth or skill as some of our opponents and if you’re better than the guy next to you, then I’m going to play you.”
The explosive Gray, who stands 5-10, 170 pounds, caught 27 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns this year. He also added 30 tackles in nine games as a shutdown cornerback.
Gray thinks playing on both sides of the ball will help colleges notice him.
“Saginaw Valley State, Concordia, and Northern Michigan want me,” Gray said. “Showing scouts I can play corner and receiver gives them more tape on me.”
Josh Adado, the team’s 6-1, 230-pound halfback, fullback, and linebacker, would be a candidate for Jon Gruden’s “Gruden Grinder” award if he played on Monday Night Football. He runs hard through the tackles and is everywhere on defense. Adado rushed for nearly 300 yards and lead the team with nine rushing touchdowns. On defense, Adado had 87 tackles, averaging 9.7 tackles per game.
“I want to play football at the next level,” Adado said. “I have visited Toledo, Saginaw Valley State, and Central Michigan.”
Alex Stockwell, a 5-10, 215-pound tight end and linebacker, was used on offense for short yardage situations and blocking. But his biggest impact was on defense as a linebacker, where he recorded 97 tackles and averaged 10.8 tackles per game.
Players practice, lift weights, watch film, study plays, and attend team meetings in the week leading up to a game. When playing both sides of the ball, that workload doubles.
“Preparation is a lot of work,” Adado said. “When watching film, I have to know what they are going to do on offense, so I’m prepared as a linebacker, and I have to know what they are going to do on defense, so I’m prepared as a fullback.”
Adado and Stockwell impressed Fulk with their preparation. They both contribute in film sessions and answer questions the coaches ask about coverages.
“Having two great linebackers like Josh and Alex allows us to change defensive calls on the line based on what the offense gives us,” Fulk said. “When they do as much homework as they do, they are smart enough to change plays on the fly. They had great games and their hard work certainly paid off.”
Stockwell likes to mold his game after linebackers in college and the NFL. He watches MSU’s Riley Bullough, New England Patriots Dont’a Hightower, and Cleveland Browns Jamie Collins.
“The way they command their defense is what I like,” Stockwell said. “Before the snap, they audible into the correct play, that’s what I try to do for our team. They also play with intensity and are fun to watch.”
Playing both sides of the ball is tough work, but it has been successful for Fulk and the Holt football team, where it all starts in practice.
“It is very rewarding to see your players pull off plays,” Fulk said. “You practice those type of things in case something breaks down.”
Holt beat rival Grand Ledge, 30-20, in the final game of the season and improved its record to 5-4. Due to the points system, they missed the playoffs by one game. On offense, Gray hauled in 5 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. Adado scored a rushing touchdown. On defense, Gray had five tackles, Adado recorded 13, and Stockwell led with 14.
More the half the team, equalling 28 players, graduating, Holt will look completely different next year.
One of those players will be 5-11, 170-pound junior running back, wide receiver, and cornerback Troy Jordan. He led the team in rushing attempts and yards, but had to operate in a committee with three other seniors.
Another player should be 5-11, 195-pound junior wide receiver and linebacker Kristopher Montry-Huston. With all these new players, one philosophy will stay the same, and that’s playing both sides of the ball.