On Jan. 15, Bray was found dead on the Iowa State campus in Ames, Iowa at age 43. The cause of death, according to the Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames and reported by the Des Moines Register on Tuesday Jan. 21, was a pulmonary embolism—a sudden blockage of an artery in the lung.
The blood clot blockage did what no offensive tackle or tight end could ever do and that was to block Curtis Bray.
His brother, Charles Bray was also an all-state football player and academic All-American who went on to play college football at Yale University. His father, Charley Bray played professional football in the CFL.
“Charley Bray was a man’s man,” said sports historian Eddie Jeffries. “Charley played college football in Oklahoma with Mike Dudley and came to Pittsburgh to visit and never left. He was 6’1 260 pounds and in addition to playing professional football he was also a great basketball player.”
Bray earned 12 varsity letters at Gateway—four in football, basketball and track and field. He was the first freshman to play varsity football for legendary coach Pete Antimarino.
“He was a wide-eyed 14-year old freshman who was scared to death before his first varsity game,” said Russ Gratton, former Gators defensive coordinator. “I put my arm around him and I asked if he was afraid of his brother? He said no. I asked if he ever wrestled with his brother? He said all the time. I told him that his brother is the best player in the state and if you can hold your own against your brother the game will be easy. He took the field and was a great player from the first snap.”
In 1988, Pitt was able to land the top player in the country and one of the WPIAL’s greatest players when Bray choose Pitt over Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Yale.
Bray was a four-year starter for the Panthers and was a two-time All-Big East selection. He was also on the track and field team at Pitt and was named an all-star there, as well.
Degenerative Joint Diseases in his knees prevented him from playing in the NFL.
Bray coached defense at Duquesne University, Western Kentucky, Villanova, Pitt and Iowa State. He came to Iowa State in 2009 and spent five seasons as a defensive line coach under Head Coach Paul Rhoads.
Coach Rhoads made a proclamation that only defensive ends at Iowa State will wear the No. 58 jersey. No. 58 was Bray’s number at Pitt. Cyclones defensive end Cory Morrissee, a 2013 All-Big 12 honorable mention honoree, will change his jersey number from 48 to 58 to honor Bray.
Bray is survived by his wife, Heather; daughter, Sydney; son, Colden Charles; his parents, Charles Sr. and Alavan of Monroeville; and brother, Charles Jr., of England.
With a resume’ as impressive as Curtis Bray’s it is surprising to his friends that he is not in the WPIAL Hall of Fame.
It is true even in Western Pennsylvania, that; Yesterday’s Heroes are soon forgotten.