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Gray goes from scout-team receiver to starting QB for Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Quinn Gray started his NFL career as a receiver on Jacksonville's practice squad, running opposing offenses and catching passes from David Garrard.

Even then, he was confident he would be a starting quarterback in the NFL one day.

Four years later, he is finally getting his shot.

Gray will make his first career start Sunday at Tampa Bay (4-3), filling in for Garrard and trying to help the Jaguars (4-2) rebound from an embarrassing loss to defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis.

"It's been a long time coming," Gray said Thursday. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I knew it would come one day. I didn't know when or what the situation would be. But at the same time, I always had confidence in myself that this day would come."

Gray spent the last four seasons waiting for his turn behind Byron Leftwich and Garrard. He sat in meetings rooms, watched video, took detailed notes and even offered suggestions that turned out to be key additions to game plans.

But he hasn't seen much action on the field.

Gray has only played in five regular-season games since college, two of them this year. He is 30-of-60 passing for 322 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has two rushing scores.

But most of that came in mop-up duty. Now, he has several days to prepare and practice for his new role, one he might have for three or four games while Garrard recovers from a badly sprained left ankle.

"It's sort of bittersweet that Dave had to get hurt and things had to come that way, but at the same time, you have to be able to take advantage of all your opportunities," said Gray, the son of a high school football coach. "That's what it is right now. It's an opportunity for me to go out and show my coaches that they made a great decision in keeping me here. That's what I've got to do."

The Jaguars signed veteran Todd Bouman on Thursday to be the backup, but they don't want Gray looking over his shoulder. After all, the former Florida A&M standout signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract as a restricted free agent in the offseason because the team liked his development.

Of course, it started as a receiver on the practice squad.

Teammates and coaches even called him Art Monk because "you couldn't cover him," coach Jack Del Rio said.

"He's gone from that role to a backup role and now he has to step in and play," Del Rio added.

The Jaguars don't expect too much from Gray. They want him to manage the game by making reads at the line of scrimmage, getting the offense in good plays and distributing the ball. In short, manage the game.

"When he's had his chances in the past, he's made the best of them," Garrard said. "I know he'll do the same this weekend. Quinn's a smart quarterback. He knows what to look for. He knows what to be ready for. This isn't his first time playing football. This isn't his first time playing in an NFL game. He'll be ready."

Gray didn't look too ready Monday night against the Colts. His second pass was intercepted. He threw another one in the fourth quarter, then fumbled on Jacksonville's final play.

Gray was more disappointed than anyone, especially since his late father -- Otis Gray won two state titles as the longtime coach at Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. -- taught him at an early age to always be prepared.

Gray wasn't then. But after four years on the scout team and a week working with the first team, Gray believes he is now.

"When your number's called, you have to be able to go in there and execute the offense the best you know how," he said. "My dad would love it right now. He would. ... I'm quite sure he's smiling down because it's always what he wanted for me and I'm quite sure he's real happy right now."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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