Mitchell students get the message (video)
Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.
Tre Gray eyes a group of students gathered in the Mitchell Guidance Center cafeteria and sees himself.
Gray's hope is they look at him and see themselves.
"I was the prom king, class favorite, voted most likely to be seen on ESPN," Gray says. "I wore Polo, had a cell phone and had a car. Is that cool? That isn't cool to me. What's cool is being successful. Having everything you want out of life and giving back to others."
Gray is taking a break from his job as a probation officer for Victoria County to interact with the students now so he doesn't run into them later in their lives.
"It's your fault because you have choices that can make your life be better or make your life worse," he says. "It's your choice. Sacrifice now to get your rewards later. I hope you dream big. I hope you have colossal dreams. But don't just dream. Act on them. A dream with no action is a dream with no purpose. You can dream all day, but if you don't act on it the right way, that dream has no purpose."
Gray, 24, can relate. He comes from a low-income family. His brother is in the penitentiary. He was sent to an alternative school during his freshman year at Cuero before he figured out what he wanted in life.
He played football and basketball for the Gobblers and was a member of the track and field team.
He became an all-state wide receiver as a senior and used his skills as an athlete to earn a scholarship.
"I couldn't afford to go to college," he says. "So I thought, 'Hey, I'm athletic. I can use that to get to college.' I went to the University of Richmond and played football there. I was the smallest guy on the team. When I graduated from high school, I was 5-foot-9, 145 pounds. I didn't care. I wanted to get out."
Gray started at wide receiver for the Spiders and earned All-American honors while being a part of a national championship team and two conference championship teams.
He became a team captain and set four school receiving records.
Gray signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals before being waived after the fourth preseason game.
"That's some people's dream to make it in the NFL," he says. "That wasn't mine. My dream was right here helping one of you. I don't get paid to do this. I'm doing this because I want to. I care. People care, but in order to see that you've got to care about yourself."
Gray returned home after being released by the Cardinals and went by the probation department to pick up an application and was hired the same day.
"Football comes and goes," he says. "It's not my life, it just happened to be part of my life.
"You can do anything you want to do," he adds. "But you know what my greatest accomplishment was? My degree. I have a college degree that no one can take from me."
Gray isn't naive. He doesn't expect to reach all the students, but he won't stop delivering the message.
"You can not listen and just hear me or you can actually listen," he says. "I can't save all of you, but I can save one person."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at advosports.com