Steelers rookie linemen Derwin Gray, Damian Prince share lifelong bond |

Steelers rookie linemen Derwin Gray, Damian Prince share lifelong bond

Chris Adamski
Steelers offensive tackles Damian Prince (64) and Chukwuma Okorafor toss a medicine ball practice Thursday, May 30, 2019.
Maryland tackle Derwin Gray was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
Maryland offensive lineman Damian Prince plays against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018.

Damian Prince was doing his first one-on-one interview as a professional football player from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex locker room last month, baring his emotions in discussing how he considered quitting football before the Pittsburgh Steelers called to offer him a spot at their rookie minicamp.

And then, in an instant, Prince went from serious and introspective to bursting out laughing.

“He’s always playing around,” the offensive tackle said of his longtime buddy, Derwin Gray, who came over to bust Prince’s chops when he was spotted talking with a reporter.

Gray feigned being a media member, asking Prince a mock question. Prince laughed but ignored Gray’s question and didn’t miss a beat with the reporter. He greeted Gray with an enthusiastic slap-handshake, and the two agreed to head to lunch after the interview.

“We have known each other for a long time,” Prince said of Gray, “so I don’t even pay attention to him anymore when he’s clowning like that.

“It’s really nice to be here with him, though.”

For most of their lives, Gray and Prince have maintained a closeness.

They grew up in southeast Washington D.C. — their families separated by just a few blocks. They attended different high schools, nut Prince (No. 2 in the country) and Gray (No. 9) were two of the most highly rated offensive tackles in the 2013-14 recruiting cycle, according to

They enrolled at Maryland in 2014, and each redshirted that season before seeing part-time duty the next year. By the end of ‘16, Gray and Prince were there starting tackles for the Terrapins, jobs they held through ‘18.

By way of the draft — Gray was the Steelers’ seventh-round pick — and free agency – Prince impressed in a tryout and was signed after rookie minicamp — the two D.C. boys are together again. This time in Pittsburgh.

“It’s cool any time you’re able to do something like this with someone you grew up with,” Prince said. “It’s something not everyone has and will make the transition a lot smoother.”

Gray and Prince are almost like twins. They speak their own language, as some of their Maryland teammates and coaches told the Big Ten Network in a feature on their bond. It was a friendship forged in a hardscrabble area of the nation’s capital and was nurtured through a tumultuous tenure at Maryland that featured four head coaches and the death of their friend and fellow offensive lineman, Jordan McNair.

“It’s definitely good to have (Prince) here with me. One, because of where we come from, and two, giving him an opportunity for what I believe he’s got,” Gray said. “He’s got God-given ability that he can go play, so I am excited for him, and I am excited he is with me because that means we will do this together.”

Though each has the talent to impress, numbers suggest the odds are against either making the Steelers’ 53-man roster this season. But each is a prime candidate for the practice squad.

The 6-4, 320-pound Gray worked at guard and both tackle positions during the Steelers’ organized team activities and minicamp this summer.

A starting right tackle for 2½ years in college, Prince repped at tackle with the Steelers.

“When camp comes, I have to prove that I deserve to be here,” said the 6-3 Prince, who added weight and said he was at 315 pounds at minicamp, “and that I play well enough to stick around.”

As a draft pick, Gray has a tad more job security, but he also believes he fell too far in the draft.

“I really can’t get caught up in the numbers,” Gray said. “I’m just happy to be here and taking full advantage of it.

“Having (Prince) here, that just adds to it.”

Hey, Steelers Nation, get the latest news about the Pittsburgh Steelers here.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Steelers
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.