Former hardcourt sensation Jeanette Gray emerging as elite wideout in WFA football

One of the most accomplished women’s basketball players for the Valparaiso University Crusaders program, Jeanette Gray has found new life athletically as an elite wide receiver for the WFA’s Chicago Force. Earning Rookie of the Year nods with the Force in 2010, it is testament to her skill as a remarkable athlete.

Known affectionately as J-Gray, she followed up her Rookie of the Year campaign with 2011 Offensive Co-Player of the Year honors and All-America selections in 2011 and 2013, respectively. Such feats complement her skills on the hardcourt. Her tenure with the Crusaders resulted in multiple Mid-Continent All-Conference team selections, the Mid-Con All-Newcomer Team in 2001 and CoSIDA Academic All-District honors.

Ironically, she is not the only former basketball player turned Force competitor. Former ABL competitor Ashley Berggren (also a wide receiver), who also played on the 2013 edition of Team USA with Gray, has gone from the hardcourt to the gridiron. Following in her accomplished footsteps has only helped make Gray an even better athlete.

Donning number 83, Gray participates in a Force scrimmage
Donning number 83, Gray participates in a Force scrimmage

Adding to the irony is the fact that Gray, like Berggren, is also an educator. When not on the gridiron, Gray’s occupation is serving as a mathematics teacher at the high school level. It would come as no surprise to know that Gray (who was a 17-under AAU All-American) has also returned to the hardcourt. She is also giving back by sharing her expertise as a coach for the girls’ varsity basketball team.

Returning to her hardcourt glories is only part of the story. Coaching, along with a love of sport, is definitely in her blood. Her father, Gary Gray, not only coached at the high school level for the better part of three decades, he has also served on the coaching staff of Valparaiso University.

In the effort to undertake the role of coach, it has also become an educational experience for her. Force head coach John Konecki is educating Gray in the fine art of motivation and coaching adjustments. With his drive and determination, Konecki may very well be the Vince Lombardi of the WFA. Having also played for Konecki as a member of the gold-medal winning US contingent at the 2013 IFAF Women’s Worlds in Vantaa, Finland, she could not have found a better mentor.

A jubilant Gray leaps into the arms of Team USA member (and fellow Force player) Jamie Menzyk
A jubilant Gray leaps into the arms of Team USA member (and fellow Force player) Jamie Menzyk

On the gridiron, Konecki certainly has a very dependable receiver. Having caught 97 passes in 2013, it set a Force franchise record. As no player in WFA history has yet reached the magical century mark in receptions during a season, Gray may be poised to achieve such lofty heights in 2014.

During the magical run that the Force made towards the 2013 WFA National Title, Gray tallied a touchdown in each postseason contest. It offered Gray and her Force teammates more than a championship but sweet redemption. After a heartbreaking loss in the 2012 title game (of note, the first women’s football game contested in an NFL stadium), it only added to the prestige of being called a champion.


Author: markstaffieri

A proud supporter of women in sport. My influences in covering women's sport include Andria Hunter and Jaclyn Hawkins. Both are former women’s hockey players who created their own websites, providing a deeper insight for their respective sport. Unable to identify with multi-millionaire male athletes, the role of women in sport is one that provides inspiration while preserving the spirit of sportsmanship. My first exposure to women and sport came through Geraldine Heaney and her legendary goal at the 1990 Women's World Hockey Championships. By composing player profiles on women from all sports, it is my opportunity to give back to the female sporting community by showing gratitude for their hard work and effort. While women's hockey opened the door to a larger yet remarkable world of sport, the quantum leap in women's football and global growth of women's basketball have only helped to fuel my interest in the female game. Some of the athletes that I admire include Caroline Ouellette and Natalie Spooner (hockey), Lolo Jones (track), Connie Fekete and Sami Grisafe (football) plus Anne Erler and Heather Furr (LFL football). Other athletes consist of Sue Bird and Katie Smith (basketball) along with Barbara Mervin and Heather Moyse (rugby). In addition to my efforts on WordPress, I have also contributed to Bleacher Report, the Canadian Women's Hockey League, Hockey Canada, LFL Canada and Women's Hockey Life.

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