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    Gray Heads Home to Atone for Fumble

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    grayhold.jpgChicago Tribune - It took just one instant for Jonas Gray, the Notre Dame running back with the burgeoning stand-up comedy career, to recognize that mistakes can be no laughing matter for people who ostensibly supported you.

    Gray's fumble near the goal-line -- returned for a 96-yard touchdown by South Florida in the season opener -- set a grim tone after just one series for what become a miserable day. The public's response through social media this week confirmed for the senior that others dwell on mistakes far longer than he does.

    "It's a little bit of both - a lot of negatives and a lot of positives," Gray said. "On Twitter, I got a lot of people saying things back and forth towards me. But a lot of it was positive: Keep your head up, we're going to need you this season, things like that. A lot of the things the coaches were echoing."

    So the Pontiac, Mich., native returns home Saturday already having secured 20-plus tickets at Michigan Stadium and looking to secure some atonement, too.

    He may want to play well for familiar faces, he may want to obtain bragging rights over friends on the Michigan sideline, and he may want to absorb fully the first-time-ever night atmosphere at the Big House that he expected would be "weird."

    Mostly, Gray wants to extinguish the memories from Week 1 and create more palatable ones during Weeks 2 through 13.

    "He's got to go back out there," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "He's got to play for us. He's physically able to do it. Mentally he's got to be able to do it. We're not sitting him down. He's got to play for us against Michigan, and he's got to play for us all year.

    "I'll tell you exactly what I said (to him): How do you want to be remembered? As that guy that fumbled on the one-yard line or as that guy in your senior year that bounced back from some adversity and had an incredible season?"

    Gray said starting tailback Cierre Wood approached him immediately after the fumble, asked what happened, and then issued a proclamation: To them, it never happened.

    Those mental gymnastics are easier said than done, especially when few outsiders let it go as easily. But then there's nothing preventing one error from being more a springboard than an albatross, too.

    "It means a lot, it helps my confidence," Gray said of his team's backing. "It pushes me to a point I need to be pushed to. It's not that I need to show something to my coaches, because they're already behind me.

    "There's definitely a bigger chip on my shoulder than there was before."

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