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Gray goes for title

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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Quinn Gray came to the NFL Europe League hoping to gain valuable experience against top competition. Now, that mission accomplished, Gray will have a chance to play for a championship.

Gray and the Frankfurt Galaxy (6-4) square off against their German rivals, the Rhein Fire (6-4) on Saturday in World Bowl XI, the NFL Europe League championship game (12:00 p.m., ET, FOX). The title contest takes place from venerable Hampden Park in historic Glasgow, Scotland.

"I'm really excited to be here competing for a championship," said Gray, a native of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. "This is the closest opportunity to play for a Super Bowl if you never actually get to one. I'm concentrating on continuing to improve my game and hopefully help us to one more win."

NFL quarterbacks have taken the European route to success in droves. Of the quarterbacks currently on NFL rosters, approximately 25 percent have spent time in NFL Europe, including four signal-callers currently slated as starters come 2003 Kickoff Weekend -- Miami's Jay Fiedler (Amsterdam, 1997), Cincinnati's Jon Kitna (Barcelona, 1997), Tampa Bay's Brad Johnson (London, 1995) and St. Louis' Kurt Warner (Amsterdam, 1998).

But of those four, only Kitna guided his team to a World Bowl victory. The Bengals quarterback led the '97 Barcelona Dragons to a 38-24 win over Rhein in the title contest, passing for 402 yards and two touchdowns, earning game Most Valuable Player honors in the process.

"Winning the World Bowl with the Dragons is one of the highlights of my football career," Kitna said. "Anytime you compete, the goal is to win a championship, and that's what we were able to accomplish."

Gray, a three-year starter at Florida A&M, led the Rattlers to consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles in 2000-01. He is the school's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns and ranks in the top five in every passing category.

Gray, who splits time in Frankfurt with fellow quarterback James Brown, struggled in the early portion of the season before raising his level of play over the final five games.

"I wasn't getting it done early on and I had to figure things out," Gray said. "Once I settled down and let the game come to me, things started to improve, and I took it from there."

Gray's turnaround began in earnest in Frankfurt's thrilling come-from-behind 33-27 overtime victory over the Scottish Claymores in Week 6. In that contest, the Jaguars passer completed 9 of 18 attempts for 198 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, including the game-winning 45-yard touchdown pass in overtime for the win.

Gray finished the season with 11 touchdown passes against only five interceptions, passing for 1,099 yards and an 86.1 passer rating.

"The experience you gain in NFL Europe is vital," Gray said. "All 32 teams can see you perform in game situations. Guys come to this league for the experience and to see parts of the world you might not get to see. Now hopefully we'll go out on a high, winning a championship."

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