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January 2, 2011

Ministry is what drives Drew

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SAN ANTONIO - Some kids go to bed hearing Little Bo Peep. Some drift off to Humpty Dumpty. Still others fly away with Peter Pan. But when Ray Drew, Sr., and his wife Pamela used to lull their baby boy to sleep, they didn't read from the Brothers Grimm or even stately old Mother Goose. They went straight to the Good Book. You know: light reading.

"When I was younger, when most kids would have their bedtime stories be the Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I would always have a story read to me out of the Bible," says Ray Drew, Jr. "I believe that's where it mostly started. I didn't understand them at the time, but we had a preacher and my godfather Cory McGee - who's a minister, and he'll be here this week - and they just told my parents to keep reading to me."

So his parents kept on reading scripture to that baby boy, and now, Ray, Jr., is a 6-foot-5, 243-pound man-mountain from Thomasville (Ga.) Thomas County Central. He also is the No. 1-ranked weakside defensive end in the country, a four-star recruit and a hair's breadth away from being - wait for it - an ordained minister.

"They said at the time to wait for me to grow up and learn how to read the stories for myself, and then, they'd see where it takes me, and this is where we're at so far," says Drew. "I actually started ministering at the age of 12 or 13, and I gave my first sermon in front of a congregation my eighth-grade year.

"If it had been up to me, I probably wouldn't be doing it. It was the calling of the Lord."

It seems cliché to say that it all started with a dream, but if the vision fits, well, you wear it.

"He came to me one night in a dream," Drew says, "and in a vision, He let me know what He had in store for my life. That (ministering) was the plan He had for me, and I couldn't go back on it."

Drew is under the tutelage now of Pastor Eddie Lee Edwards, who will determine when his young charge is ready to take up the pulpit. And what better a stage to have now than the US Army All-American Game and - soon enough - big-time college football.

"I couldn't second-guess it, but if it was up to me, I'd just be a normal teenage guy, running around and just doing whatever, I guess," Drew says. "I know that, when it's all said and done, we have to set our sights on things eternal, because in the end, everything is going to pass away and the only thing that's going to be left standing is His word. That's what I'm working towards."

As committed as Drew is to his spiritual mission, he still has yet to make a pledge to one of his many suitors. His final five are believed to be Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, LSU and Florida.

His religious devotion is likely to play a role in where he eventually decides to commit.

"I know the way that I was raised, how I was brought up, and I'd like to continue that in my college years," says Drew. "I don't want to, in the next three-to-five years, tear down what I've built so far. As far as the religious aspect, it plays a big part in my process."

Drew's been called one of this year's toughest recruits to get a read on, and he likes it that way.

"I dig it," he laughs. "I like to have fun. I'm just that type of individual: I don't like to be predictable."

He's definitely not above pulling the media's collective leg, but, frankly, it's just too hard to get mad at the kid. He's easy with a smile, boasts a full, deep laugh and always answers with a 'yes sir' or a 'no sir.'

"I'll tell you that I'm not going to a game on a given weekend, but then I may just end up at Notre Dame the next day; that's just me," Drew says with a smile. "I don't like to be predictable. I just like to do my own thing and to keep people thinking, keep 'em guessing."

Drew has said rather nebulously that he's "looking into a lot of stuff."

"What I'm looking for in a school, as far as making my final decision, first off is going to be education," says Drew, whose mother Pamela is an educator, herself. "Any education at the Division I level will be up-to-par. Next, I would say would be how comfortable I feel on that campus. If I were to go there as a regular student, if I weren't being recruited to go there as a player, would I feel comfortable there as a student? Third off, I'd say playing time has a role in my process, as well, because if you love football the way you say you do, you would rather be on the field than on the sideline, any day."

And one of the things that Drew loves best is hitting people. Given his pious lifestyle and peaceful nature off the gridiron, one would think it difficult to reconcile such violence and physicality with his philosophical proclivities, but Drew doesn't see it quite like that. Instead, he relates that dichotomy to the Parable of the Talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30.

"The way I look at it, a lot of people say that football's a violent sport, and all this kind of stuff, but the way that I take that, what I take from that, is from this story told in the Bible, where the Lord gave three men different talents," Drew begins. "He gave one to one man, two to another and a little more to the third. The man he gave one buried his. The other two and multiplied their talents and brought back more than what the Lord had blessed them with. That's the way I look at my talents. The Lord has given me the ability to go out and play football and have fun with it, as well. I might as well go out and multiply them, as the story says, so He won't get angry and won't take them away. If He gives you something, and you don't use it, it's a slap in the face."

A slap in the face is more than what he promised good friend and rival Christian LeMay, a 2011 Georgia QB commit from Matthews (N.C.) Butler. Last week, Drew posted on LeMay's wall: "Love ya Lemay, but I'm like a bull. I hate red and when I see you on the opposing sideline, I'm comin to get ya."

LeMay - who enrolled early at Georgia - responded: "hahahah wow bro bro hurtful words :/ go dawgs :>".

The two have become fast friends throughout the recruiting process, and the back-and-forth is no more than some of Drew's patented ribbing. Frankly, he still has no idea where he wants to go.

"He's tried to talk to me about Georgia and everything," Drew says of LeMay. "I had to be all big with him, but really in the end, I've got to do what's best for me, whether it be Florida, whether it be Auburn, maybe it is Georgia. In the end, I have to do what's best for me, because I'm going to be the one there, and where Georgia may be home for you (LeMay), for me, it might be out west in California."

Talk about a bolt from the blue. It turns out that Drew has himself a darkhorse candidate out on the West Coast.

"I was looking at UCLA, mainly because of its location and the major that I want to go into, which is communications," says Drew. "Them being in LA, it'll offer up a lot of opportunities."

Adding the Bruins to his top tier of schools with just a month left until National Signing Day, Ray Drew is, as usual, just full of surprises.

The 11th Annual US Army All-American Bowl will take place on Saturday, Jan. 8 at 12 p.m., CST, live on NBC at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tex.



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