I wrote about high school football for years. I loved it.
Career-wise, you never move anywhere but laterally. That's even if you're great at it. It's a lot of work. If you get on the front page of the sports section a dozen times a year, that's a lot. The job's highest rung is becoming a high-school press-box legend. No glory. Lots of stats and agate.
But you cover real people. That's the upside.
Curtis Bray was a real person.
Bray played football at Gateway High School (Class of '88) and Pitt (1988-91). He was first-team USA Today All-American in high school and did very well at Pitt despite injuries, starting as a freshman. Bad knees kept him out of the NFL, but that was OK. Bray always wanted to coach and was good at it. He plied his trade at six colleges including Pitt and, most recently, Iowa State.
Bray died suddenly yesterday, collapsing while working out. He was 43.
I wrote about Bray. I also used to play street hockey with a bunch of his Gateway classmates. Team Monroeville. We weren't criminals, but we weren't gentlemen, either. Bray used to come watch. He witnessed the mayhem and participated in the hilarity. He was a good man.
When you cover high school football, you work with famous athletes before they get ruined. Before the pedestal gets too high.
But some, like Bray, stay grounded. For him, the pedestal never got too high. He wouldn't let it.
I miss covering high school football. I'm going to miss Curtis Bray. I had't seen him in years. But he has a place in my memory. And always will.