Adamsville coach keeps football all in the family

Adamsville coach keeps football all in the family

Posted: Friday, November 25, 2011 12:01 pm

By KEVIN WEAKS
Press Sports
The head of the household makes sure to have a family dinner every Thursday night during the football season.
Brandon Gray has reserved that night for his extended family each football season for the past five years.
That’s because Gray is more than the football head coach at Adamsville, and his Cardinal players are more than students playing football. Adamsville is home, and those players are just as much his kids as his three-year-old son, Jon Canton.
So, family night includes not only Gray, his wife Emily and their son, but also the senior members of the team and the coaching staff.
“I want our program to be like a family,” Gray said. “Once a Cardinal, always a Cardinal. We have maybe 28 people here. My wife loves it. We started doing this in 2007, and we just have the seniors over to visit, eat and talk about life. We don’t talk football at all.”
Gray is the perfect example of what he’s trying to teach. After all, he practically grew up a Cardinal.
He was a ball boy on Adamsville’s last semifinal team, back in 1985, and he started at quarterback for the Cardinals in 1989, ’90 and ’91, graduating as the school’s first four-year letterman in three sports —football, basketball and baseball.
That honor was actually being polished up for his older brother, Chad. Himself a three-year starter at quarterback, Chad Gray died on Oct. 7, 1988, from injuries sustained in a car accident several days earlier, Sept. 29. It was the week of homecoming, and Chad’s 18th birthday was Oct. 1. The following spring, he would have begun his senior baseball season on a 22-game hitting streak.
That tragic time in Gray’s life might be one of the reasons he tries so hard to instill a sense of family in his teammates.
“We tell the kids that there will be  lot of special times in their lives,” Gray said. “They’ll get married, they’ll have kids of their own. And, along with all of those things, they will always remember that bond with their teammates.”
Gray said it is always a good feeling when a former player comes back to visit, calls or texts to see how things are going or to wish the team good luck. He was especially touched recently when one of his past players listed him as a reference for a job.
He’s seen that bond in other programs, too.
Gray has become friends with several coaches over the years, including current Trenton head man Kent Scott. They met at a coaching camp, and as Gray recalls, Scott made him feel like an old friend on their first meeting. Scott recently walked out on the field at UT Martin with former Trenton player Kendal Harper as Harper’s Senior Day guests.
The family atmosphere is not just contained within the walls of the Cardinal locker room, either.
“We have great support from the community,” Gray said. “We don’t have fair-weather fans. And, our kids make sure to give back to the community. When we have a chance to do something for the people here, we always try to have someone there.”
Maybe that’s why fans will begin getting to Lendon Martin Stadium by 11 a.m. to mark their seats blankets and stadium chairs. Game nights see cars lined up and down Main  Street, back toward downtown Adamsville to the east and Selmer to the west.
For Gray, it all comes back to family and being accountable for your actions.
To illustrate his point, Gray recently told his team of an incident involving his son. Jon Canton told his dad how he had fallen down. “But, I got right back up,” Gray recalls his son telling him, “just like your players.” Published in The Messenger 11.24.11

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