It’s never too early to become an entrepreneur or business-owner.
Just ask Pendleton High School football player Luke Gray.
Gray, 17, has been mowing lawns, pulling weeds and trimming hedges as the owner and operator of “Luke’s Lawn Service,” in the Pendleton, Clemson and Anderson areas. You might have seen one of his business cards at a local establishment.
Since starting the business a few years ago, the senior has built a steady stream of lawns to mow every couple of weeks — about 30 in total. Gray sees himself growing the business once he finishes school, but right now?
“Right now, it’s a little hobby, a side hustle,” he says.
If it sounds like a lot, well, it is. Consider: Gray’s not just any football player. He’s Pendleton’s star quarterback, who just happens to be off to the best statistical start of any QB in Anderson and Pickens County, if not the Upstate. He squeezes in practices and meetings into his daily schedule that runs him from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“Yeah. It’s a lot,” Gray confirms, when asked about his daily routine.
Pendleton football goes as Luke Gray goes
Pendleton coach Grayson Howell isn’t surprised his QB has been able to manage all his duties while being impressive on the field.
“He is a competitor, he’s not very boisterous, he doesn’t draw attention to himself, but man, he loves to compete,” Howell said. “I know people say this all the time, but whatever ‘it’ is, Luke Gray has it.”
In just eight games this season, Gray has passed for 2,403 yards with 38 touchdowns to just one interception. He’s completing 71% of his passes and has run for three TDs, already surpassing nearly every statistic from his 2022 season. As a junior, he threw for 2,198 yards and scored 25 total touchdowns with six interceptions.
Gray’s success is the primary reason Pendleton is 7-1 this season, 3-0 in Region 1-AAA, after finishing 5-5 in 2022. The Bulldogs are in control of their destiny to win the region championship.
The secret to Luke Gray’s success? Senior chemistry
But why has he improved so much this season? Gray thinks it has a lot to do with chemistry.
“I’ve played with this group for pretty much my whole life, especially with Kory (Jones) on (junior varsity) together our freshman and sophomore years,” Gray said. “All the time we’ve played together is why I feel like our chemistry is where it’s at now.”
Howell agrees but adds two other big reasons for the massive statistical jump. The first is personnel.
“A big part of our production is that, for the first time since I’ve been here, we’ve fully embraced throwing the ball around like this because, for the first time, we really feel like this style fits our personnel,” Howell said.
“Kory is a prototypical boundary receiver at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds … Abijah (Webb) is probably the most explosive player I’ve ever coached in 30 years, from an athletic standpoint, and with what we do offensively, we’ve been able to move LJ (Maddox) from receiver into the backfield. That gives us the best of both worlds because we use our backs so much in the passing game.”
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The second is the trust Howell and the Bulldogs have in their QB.
“He’s unflappable. Over the past couple of seasons as our starter, very rarely have I seen him flustered,” Howell said. “When the team sees that the guy who’s pulling the trigger isn’t flustered, they don’t tend to get flustered either. You know what I mean? He just exudes a quiet confidence that gets the rest of the team to believe in him.”
As for Gray’s opinion, well, credit should be showered elsewhere. Not on the entrepreneurial senior and star QB.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t say it’s me or anything I’ve done,” he said. “I think it’s the receivers, they’re the ones that have been making the plays this season.”