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Quan Bray’s life could easily have taken a completely different turn. One day before he was set to report to training camp for the Auburn Tigers, he suffered the tragic loss of his mother. Tragic as in his father shot her as she was sitting in her vehicle and Quan was the first family member on the scene.
“My home boy called me, asking me why someone was shooting at my mom’s car right across the street from my grandma’s house. I had just gotten on the interstate and I told myself I had to get there before my little brother, he remembers. Thankfully, my grandma was out of town, and she would never go out of town. That was a crazy coincidence.“
While very few of us have gone through such hardships, we can all draw inspiration from Quan’s composure. Not only did the receiver show up to camp the next day, he went on to have a brilliant varsity career, playing both receiver and kick returner at Auburn University, and becoming the first player in school history to score a rushing TD, a receiving TD and a punt return TD in the same season.
“I took it, as bad as it hurt, and used it as fuel because I know that was my mom’s dream for me, Quan says. She was my number one fan, she would absolutely have been here in Montreal with me.“
If Quan was so quick to dust himself off after the tragedy, it was also because he knew he had to be a role model to his younger brother Jamir. Even after carrying such a burden, he still believes everything happened for a reason. The quiet, observant and cool-headed playmaker says the event forced him to grow up real fast.
“The first thing I thought of is: what can I do to ease his pain and be there for him? So, I became a father figure at a young age. I was only 19 at the time, but that 19-year-old me is the same as the 26-year-old me. Not because I have evolved since, but because I had to become a man right then and there.“
The Southern Hospitality of Auburn surely played an important role in keeping him leveled as well. His teammates picked him up, because that’s what teammates are for, and the coaches never doubted his grind. As a matter of fact, Quan killed his first workout with the team, only a day after learning of his mother’s passing, and earned a whole lot of respect from his peers in the process. And that right there, respect, is a big thing for the 5’10, 185 pounds wide receiver. He always felt like he had something to prove. He still does. Born and raised in Georgia Quan stayed close to home until he signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted agent in 2015. Key word: undrafted.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder, live life with a chip on my shoulder. I always felt like an underdog. Being undrafted, I had to work twice as hard to make the team. Even when I got here, I was placed on the practice squad and had to prove myself. But that’s how I work best.“
Maybe the coaching staff here sensed it’d be a source of motivation for him, because the stunner was elevated to the active roster shortly after and it took – literally – no one by surprise. Quan had spent the entire training camp showing off his secure hands and unsettling speed. Those who saw knew he’d be put to work sooner than later. Not only does he have the athletic skills to become something great in the CFL, he also has the right attitude. Last week, when his touchdown was questionably called back, Quan didn’t flinch.
“Loko (Boseko Lokombo) said something in the locker room about staying leveled, even-keel. Life and the game of football are full of ups and downs, but you can’t allow yourself to go too high or too low. If I had gotten frustrated at the refs, it would have affected my teammates. It could have brought the energy down or killed their focus and we still had over a quarter to play.“
Quan has mastered the art of trusting the process, even when life seems unfair. Although he’s far from the loud type – definitely not your locker room preacher -, Quan finds ways to pass on his message of hope. Last May, the young man published Keep the Dream Alive, a book that tells the first part of his inspiring story. He is also very active on Twitter and Instagram for the same reason.
“My goal is really to show people, especially the youth, that it’s important not to give up on yourself, even when tragedy hits. I’m able to say everything happens for a reason, even after an event like that.”
After spending three seasons with the Colts, Quan bounced around from the Buffalo Bills to the Houston Texans to the Birmingham Iron (AAF), then finally made his way to Canada. Like many other Americans in this league, he never thought he would have the opportunity to discover the land North of the border. Today, his corner of a smile says it all: he’s happy to be here. Quan is not only a great addition to our team, here, in Montreal, he’s a man that young football players can look up to. A true soldier blossoming through the pain.
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