ENTERPRISE, Ala. (WDHN) — It all started right here in the Wiregrass for Illinois running back Josh McCray.

Competing in one of the toughest regions in Alabama 7A football paid off for the running back who’s now doing big things for the fighting Illini.

“It’s everything I dreamed it to be,” McCray said. “I mean, just being out there in front of the atmosphere. Fans going crazy, teammates going crazy. I didn’t really expect to play my first year, but when I got there I just had to do what I had to do.”

McCray did more than what he had to do, rushing for almost 550 yards on 112 carries as a true freshman.

“First time I got out there, I’m not going to cap, I was pretty nervous. I was out there and Coach B was like, ‘What’s your favorite play?’. I said just run 41 and then he just gave me the ball and I just had to go to work with it.

He had 140 plus yard games at both Purdue and then seventh ranked Penn State, who the Illini beat in nine overtimes.

“That was a tiring game. Nine overtimes that does wear off on your body playing for like four hours out there.

There’s no denying playing at Enterprise prepared McCray for Division One ball.

His senior season with the Wildcats he rushed for 774 yards on 111 carries and 11 touchdowns. He caught 28 passes for 440 yards and six scores.

“Playing physical football in Alabama really does help because whenever you go Division One, you’re going to take big hits and I think that’s all I really received here at EHS, big hits. The strength here, the conditioning here it really helped me out to go through college.”

McCray grew up in Enterprise so going to school far from his family is a challenge, but definitely worth it.

“I don’t like being away from my family, but I’m actually happy I took the chance to go out there with Coach B and his amazing coaching staff. Coach Tank and his staff. I really love it out there.”

While he loves Champaign, IL, McCray says he’s happy to be home for the holidays.

“It feels good to be back, just seeing the people I love and seeing the ones that care a lot about me.”

The running back was recruited by many power five schools, including five in the SEC, but he wouldn’t change his decision to head up north.

Football season only ended recently, but he’s already working on putting up major numbers next year.

“I’ve got to rush for like over 1000 next year. I’ve got to have a breakout season next year. Getting back bigger, stronger and faster. I just have to keep on maintaining, keep my eyes on the prize.

McCray has a while before his sophomore season kicks off and until then all he has to say is, “Go Illini!”