Former Gateway, Pitt star Curtis Bray passes away

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 1:09 p.m.

Son to some, father to others, former Gateway and Pitt football player Curtis Bray left an indelible impact on those closest to him before he died Wednesday in Ames, Iowa. He was 43.

Gateway basketball coach Mitch Adams, his voice choked by emotion, said Bray “was like a son to me.”

“His smile was radiant,” said Adams, who has known Bray since coaching him on Gateway's seventh-grade team. “He was the type of person who when he walked in a room, he brought everybody up with him. He was a calming influence on everyone.”

Then, there is Iowa State defensive end Cory Morrissey, who rose to Big 12 honorable mention status last season under the guidance of Bray, his position coach.

“He definitely was a father figure for me,” Morrissey said. “I lost my father when I was 14. I learned everything about the position and life lessons from (Bray). He coached beyond the field. He coached young men to become men.”

A cause of death wasn't immediately available, but Iowa State website said Bray collapsed while working out on campus.

Bray, one of the all-time great WPIAL football players, was Gatorade national Player of the Year and USA Today All-American in 1987. He was a four-year regular on Gateway's football, basketball and track teams. Adams said he is the only 12-letter student-athlete in the history of the school.

Along with playing on Gateway's WPIAL champion football teams in 1985 and 1986, he won the state javelin title in 1988.

“Curtis was probably the greatest athlete to ever grace the halls of Gateway High School,” said Terry Smith, a teammate and later head football coach at the school.

“He was a major recruit before there were major recruits. He played basketball and he was the best player on the court. He played football and he was the national player of the year. He ran and threw the javelin farther than anyone. He could line up and run the 100 meters faster than anybody.”

Bray, who played linebacker at Pitt and later coached defensive ends and linebackers there from 2000-06, spent the past five seasons as defensive line coach at Iowa State where he worked under head coach Paul Rhoads, former Pitt defensive coordinator.

Former Gateway coach Pete Antimarino said he noticed leadership qualities in Bray as early as junior high school.

“He was a role model for the other kids,” Antimarino said. “He was a big, strong kid with tremendous ability.

“He was a remarkable individual. Everyone respected him. When a coach brags about one of his players, it almost sounds impossible, but that's the way I identify him.”

Bray, who graduated from Pitt in 1992 with a degree in economics, was a member of Rhoads' original staff at Iowa State in 2009.

“Curtis Bray was a dear friend to me and to all he ever came in contact with,” Rhoads said in a statement. “He was a trusted and loyal assistant coach who always put the kids and the team in front of his work.”

The Pitt athletic department also released a statement on Bray's death.

“The Pitt football family is shocked and saddened to hear of Curtis Bray's untimely passing. His competitive nature on the field was only surpassed by his kind and gentle demeanor off of it.”

Bray also coached at Franklin Regional High School, Duquesne University, Western Kentucky, Villanova and Temple.

He is survived by his wife, Heather, daughter Sydney and son Colden Charles.

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