Gray, Evans, Hodgman find 4-year homes to bring number of 2010-11 signees to 14
Yuma, Arizona June 15, 2011 Arizona Western College is proud to announce that three more AWC Football players have signed official letters of intent with NCAA 4-year schools. Matadors' wide receiver Jamal Gray (juh-MAHL) has signed with Middle Tennessee State University; defensive back Antonio Evans has inked his letter with Idaho State University; defensive lineman William Hodgman has decided to sign with Canada's Simon Fraser University. Today's announcement brings the total of Matador Football players that have signed with four-year schools since the end of the 2010 season to 14.
It was around this time last year that Middle Tennessee State University and AWC Football were linked by the transfer of Brent Burnette from MTSU to become the Matadors' opening day starting quarterback last year. Jamal Gray's decision to head to the Volunteer State is actually linked to that move, since Gray credits things Burnette said to him about the school as an influence in the move. The Blue Raiders will now look for Gray to improve on the flashes of brilliance he showed over his two-year Matador career. Arriving in Yuma in the summer of 2009 after starring at Thornton Township High School in his native Harvey, Illinois, Gray got out of the gates very quickly as a freshman, catching 15 passes in his first four games as a collegian before a shoulder injury slowed him somewhat. However, he did finish with 19 receptions for 300 yards in 2009, finding the end zone twice. This past season, Gray moved into the starting lineup for good, and was as important of a cog in the Matadors' passing game as anyone. His first TD reception of the 2010 season was his longest as a Matador: a 71-yarder against Mesa September 25th. He also had a banner night two weeks later in Tucson, reeling in 8 receptions for 126 yards and 3 touchdowns in a win over Pima. He also caught the final TD pass of the season for the Matadors, a dramatic 23-yard halfback option pass from Matadors' tailback Reggie Bullock in the 4th quarter of the HOT Bowl. For the season, Gray finished with an even 500 yards receiving on 29 catches-both marks 2nd-best on the team. He also finished tied for the team lead in TD catches with 8.
Meanwhile, like Gray, Antonio Evans has spent two years with the Matador Football program, but will head to Pocatello with three years of eligibility left. Evans redshirted for the Matadors in 2009, but still went 'all-out' in practice that year, drawing the respect of AWC Head Football Coach Tom Minnick and the Matador coaching staff. That respect carried over into training camp last summer as Evans was given a chance to win one of the vacant starting cornerback spots as he battled with highly touted prospect Justin Rogers, and when the Mats took the field against Monterrey Tech on August 28th, there was Evans taking the field with the starting 'D'. Evans grabbed hold of the starting spot and didn't let it go, starting all but one of the Matadors' 12 games in 2011. With NJCAA All-American Isiah Wiley at the Matadors' other cornerback spot, Evans was targeted by opposing quarterbacks a lot, but held up his end of the bargain. The native of St. Louis, Missouri, recorded 25 solo tackle, which was 3rd-best on the team, and 36 overall tackles overall, including 3 tackles for loss.
Finally, William Hodgman fought through a lot of adversity and just plain bad luck during his two-year Matador career, but has shown incredible potential at every turn, and now will get a chance to play in his third country in the last few years. Hodgman made international news when he came across the Pacific Ocean from his home in Auckland, New Zealand to play high school ball in Oregon and then northern California. He then brought his talents to Yuma in 2009, and became one of the mainstays of the Matadors' interior defensive line as a freshman. Hodgman played in 8 games for the Mats in '09, recording a sack, 3 tackles for loss, and 17 tackles overall before suffering a serious pectoral muscle injury in the regular season finale that sidelined him for nearly 10 months. Hodgman worked hard in the off-season to do two important things: rehabilitate the injury, and transform himself into a starting offensive lineman. The injury still prevented him from playing in the 2010 season opener, but Hodgman was there in Week 2 at right offensive guard. Like most of the other linemen last year, Hodgman wound up changing positions, moving to the left side and starting a total of five games before re-aggravating the injury in mid-October which again sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Hodgman will get a fresh start at Simon Fraser University, an NCAA Division II school in Vancouver, British Columbia.