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McCray ready to play where he is needed for Tigers

Posted: May 24, 2018 11:54 a.m.
Updated: May 25, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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CAMDEN’S LANCE MCCRAY SIGNED a National Letter of Intent to continue his academic and football-playing pursuits at Benedict College while flanked by, from left, his father, Lance McCray Sr., his aunt, Thomasina Grooms, and his mother Florene Davis. The back row includes family friend Brian Mayes, McCray’s cousin, Whitney Graham, Camden High head football coach Brian Rimpf and CHS running backs coach SaVonn Wingate.

Every new coach needs players that he can rely on from day one and who will be there through thick and thin.

For Camden head football coach Brian Rimpf, Lance McCray was that guy.

When Rimpf took over the reins to the Bulldog program from Jimmy Neal in the spring of 2017, he was new to South Carolina --- never mind Camden --- having come here after coaching at Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville, N.C. As Rimpf made his rounds at his new school, he kept noticing how Camden players rallied around McCray.

As the season rolled around, McCray continued to be a leader and was a player who did whatever was asked of him, whether it was carrying the football as one of the Bulldogs’ two starting backs or, when the need arose, to offer his services to play linebacker.

When college coaches would visit Rimpf, they were attracted to McCray’s varied skill set. When it was all said and done, the 5-foot-6, 185-pounder decided to cast his lot with Benedict College and signed a National Letter of Intent with Mike White’s program.

“I just felt comfortable when I went there and tried out for the team,” McCray said of his collegiate decision. “The coaches showed me a lot of respect as I showed them respect.”

Last fall, McCray rushed for 445 yards on 89 carries with three touchdowns for the Bulldogs. He also caught 10 passes for 61 yards. As a junior, he ran for 457 yards and four touchdowns while catching three passes for 101 yards including one which went for 75 yards.

In addition to those figures, he showed he could play on both sides of the football when, last fall, he went in to play linebacker in game seven at Fairfield Central and, immediately, came up with a big tackle on his first snap.

A senior who was not afraid to add more responsibilities to his plate in the middle of the season, Rimpf said, sums up McCray’s team-first attitude.

“He was a great senior for us, being our first year coming in and having a leader like Lance,” Rimpf said. “He was a team captain every single game of the year because he earned it. He did what he was supposed to do; he worked hard and he never complained. 

“He was a guy we could point to and say, ‘That’s how you’re supposed to act.’ You couple that with him being a great player on the field and that makes for a really good experience for a coach.”

McCray expects to be used as a running back at Benedict but said if he is asked to line up somewhere else on the field, he would be open to making such a move. “Mostly, it will be running back but, if they decide to put me somewhere else, I will play there. I’m all about the team,” he said of his playing spot at the collegiate level.

Rimpf, who played collegiately as an offensive tackle at East Carolina before being drafted by and playing for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, sees McCray as a fullback should Benedict run an offense which requires one. He said his former player will not be picky as to where he plays as long as he can get on the field and help the Tigers.

 “Lance is a guy who if they need him to play some place, he’s going to play wherever they need him. It’s a great fit for him with Benedict,” said the Bulldog boss.

McCray first started playing organized football when he was 8 years old and the gridiron bug bit him and grew on him. It does, however, still take him to get hit for the first time in a game to settle down and get into his role. He smiled when talking about getting the jitters out of his system each game.

“I think football was born inside me but, I knew that every game I had the ‘bubble guts,’” he said. “I had to take one hit and then, I was OK the rest of the game.”

That will probably not change now that McCray is stepping up in the game and facing players who are bigger, stronger and faster than those he faced in high school. He is preparing for everything to change from the speed of the game to being on his own to carrying a heavier academic load at Benedict.

“I’ve prepared for it but the speed is going to be way different,” he said of how the game will change for him in college. “In high school, it’s fast. In college, you have bigger, tougher and faster guys. You’re just going to have to work harder in college.

 “It’s going to be way different,” he added. “In high school, we had hard training but now, 85 percent of 100 percent of my time will be dedicated to the team and practicing and getting up and going to class. It’s going to be a major change. I just have to be dedicated, get my studies in and be ready to go.”

As someone who went through what McCray is about to experience by being a college student-athlete, Rimpf smiled when asked of the changes which his former team leader can expect at the next level. Knowing the type person Lance McCray is, though, Rimpf said he believes the challenge will not be unmanageable.

“Living on their own, away from family and not living in their parents’ house is the biggest change,” Rimpf said. “On the field, they are all Lance’s from their high school; everybody was one of the better players from their school. Obviously, the talent level is tougher because there will not be a guy who he can say, ‘I’m better than him.’ He’s going to have to think that he’s better than them to outwork them and that sort of thing.

“We’re all really excited for Lance to be able to move on to the next level, go to college and further his academic career as well as to further his athletic career on the football field.”

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