Bryan Murray, the associate head coach of De Paul Catholic in Wayne, New Jersey, has seen a lot of high school football in the Garden State over the years.
He has seen hundreds of football players.
But Murray has never seen one better than Rashan Gary, the behemoth 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive tackle from Paramus Catholic who is the No. 1-rated high school recruit in the country.
Gary will announce on Wednesday where he will attend college and play football -- Michigan or Clemson. Gary will make his announcement from ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticut.
“He’s that good,” Murray said. “I would argue he’s probably the best high school player that I’ve ever seen in this area. We’ve had some good players come out of New Jersey, and he’s at the top.
“He has the unique combination of size, athleticism, power, and his ability to play the edge or inside. The combination is very rare. And just his attitude and disposition make him that much more appealing. Off the field, he’s humble, respectful, polite. He hits the field, the switch is flipped, and he’s a whole different person.”
Murray, as an opposing coach, is happy to see Gary finally graduate.
“We had to game plan around him,” Murray said, laughing.
Michigan has four commitments from New Jersey, including two from De Paul Catholic -- running back and early enrollee Kareem Walker and defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour. Jabrill Peppers, like Gary from Paramus Catholic, will be a redshirt sophomore at Michigan this fall. Chris Partridge, who was the Paramus Catholic head coach, is now the Wolverines’ linebackers / special teams coach.
Although some of the incoming New Jersey recruits have played against each other in high school, they’re all close. Gary is friends with Walker and Dwumfour, two of Murray’s players at De Paul.
“All our kids are tight-knit, so you run into these guys at different events,” Murray said. “As far as I could tell, (Gary’s) genuine. He’s a nice kid. The way he is on the field and off the field, from my perspective, is night and day.”
Peter Kafaf has worked several years with Gary on fine-tuning his defensive line skills. Kafaf volunteers his time to work with offensive and defensive linemen from New Jersey high schools and has seen many of them land scholarships to top-notch programs.
Gary refers to his training with Kafaf as “The Lab.”
During their time together in “The Lab,” Kafaf has gotten to know all dimensions of Gary’s physical ability and his personality.
“He’s a phenomenal kid,” Kafaf said. “Rashan is truly is an exceptional young man. His God-given talents are just that -- his size, the way he’s built, the way he moves. The day I met him I knew he was going to be a top athlete. He wanted to learn the finer points to play his position. He really took to it, he studied, he’s quiet, and he’s not flashy.”
Todderick Hunt, who covers recruiting for NJ Advance Media, said Gary has been tireless in terms of improving his game and technique.
“Rashan has the perfect temperament to be successful not only at the game of football but at the game of life,” Hunt said. “He’s such a hard worker. He continues to push through walls and do things to make himself better. He will hop out of practice and then do footwork training and then do explosion training and then homework, not to mention the fact he’s been traveling (for recruiting visits).
“He’s definitely locked in and excited about all these opportunities, but at the same time he’s very humble, a pretty quiet kid. He does care about rankings and being the best, but it’s not something he talks about, because he wants to be it.”
Kafaf knows that coaches and fans have coveted landing Gary on their rosters because of his football ability. There’s much more to Gary, he said, which makes him more appealing on many levels.
“His character easily matches or surpasses his abilities,” Kafaf said. “We’re always talking about his grades, how he’s doing school, always understanding you’re one injury away.”
They were working out on a field in Red Bank, New Jersey, one day and a few high school players a year younger than Gary and not nearly as skilled, also were there. Kafaf asked them to join the workout. After the drills had concluded, Gary spent time with the other boys.
“He sat down with them and talked to them about how important it was to get their education,” Kafaf said. “He doesn’t carry any airs about him. He is as humble as they come.
“The real story about Rashan is the one about his character. He doesn’t tweet anything (only retweets). He’s not cocky, he’s not showy, he does not dance. He’s a sportsman. He’s as complete a student-athlete I know. A kid like Rashan is a dream to coach. I told his mother she should write a book, not because he’s the No. 1 player, but because he has handled his recruitment better than someone who has a Hollywood agent.”
Before the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando last month, Kafaf and Gary worked three weeks on what Kafaf described as “three to four college-level hand moves” for a defensive lineman. Gary effectively used those moves during Under Armour practices and the game.
“He’s going to be the No. 1 freshman in the country,” Kafaf said. “He’s going to be the most prepared freshman in the country.”