By Travis Morgan
AMES, Iowa – Iowa
State assistant football coach Curtis Bray, who spent the last five seasons as
the defensive line coach for the Cyclones, passed away this morning in Ames. He
was 43 years old.
Bray's ability to mold Big 12 quality defensive ends stood out in each of his five seasons at ISU. He joined the Cyclone staff in head coach Paul Rhoads' first season (2009). Rhoads also worked with Bray at Pittsburgh and valued his assistant's ability as a teacher. Bray helped the Cyclones earn three bowl appearances (2009 Insight Bowl, 2011 Pinstripe Bowl, 2012 Liberty Bowl).
"Curtis Bray was a dear friend to me and to all he ever came in contact with," Rhoads said. "He was a trusted and loyal assistant coach who always put the kids and the team in front of his work. He was as genuine in his approach to relationships, coaching and life as anyone I have ever been associated with. We will miss him dearly."
Bray's work with junior defensive end Cory Morrissey in 2013 was outstanding. Morrissey led all Cyclone down lineman in tackles (52) and was second on the team in tackles for loss (6.5) en route to All-Big 12 honorable mention accolades. Morrissey tied for second in the Big 12 and ranked ninth nationally in fumble recoveries in his first season as a starter.
"He definitely was a father figure for me with everything that has happened in my life," Morrissey said. "I lost my father when I was 14. I learned everything about the position and life lessons from him. He coached beyond the field. He coached young men to become men."
Bray had earlier turned Cyclone linebacker Jacob Lattimer into a play-making defensive end. Lattimer finished his career in 2011 with 85 career tackles, 12.5 for loss with seven sacks while earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.
Morrissey is the latest Bray protégé for the Cyclones and the senior All-Big 12 performer will always remember his positive influence.
"He was so much fun to be around," Morrissey said. "He could joke around with you and make a tense situation better with his personality. I am really going to remember the way he coached me and the way he coached my position group. I really didn't know the defensive end position very well coming into Iowa State. I credit everything to Coach Bray and his coaching skills."
Bray was an assistant at Temple prior to his arrival in Ames. His relationship with Rhoads was cultivated at the University of Pittsburgh, where Bray coached seven years. Bray was the linebackers coach while Rhoads was defensive coordinator with the Panthers. Under Bray's direction in 2006, future Washington Redskins linebacker H.B. Blades ranked fourth nationally in tackles en route to FWAA First-Team All-American and Big East Conference Defensive Player-of-the-Year honors.
The Panthers competed in five bowl games during Bray's coaching tenure, winning the 2001 Tangerine Bowl and the 2002 Insight Bowl. Pitt also played in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl after winning the 2004 Big East title
A prep star, Bray became the first defensive player to be honored as the Gatorade National High School Football Player of the Year and also was a first-team USA Today All-American in 1987. He played football at Pittsburgh, earning his degree in economics in 1992.
He is survived by his wife, Heather, a daughter, Sydney, and a son, Colden Charles.