#24Strong: A season of faith and football

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me in a while, it’s because I took this football season to be there for my husband and our football family as we grieved the loss of Robert Grays.

The 2017 football season started off like any other football season. I had the same nervous and excited feelings I get every year before a new season starts. I was hopeful for wins, nervous about the possibility of losing and excited to be spending game days with family and friends. My mind was consumed with a million little things. The same routine things most coaches’ wives think about during football season.

Then, during our second home game of the season on the evening of September 16, 2017 with 3:24 left in the 4th quarter everything changed, forever.

I remember clinging to our 1-year-old in the stands as I prayed for Rob to get back up or to give us a sign that he was okay. I remember my heart sinking as our coaches sprinted from the press box to hold hands with our players as they prayed. I’ll never forget the indescribable pain and fear in the eyes of our coaches, coaches’ wives, school administration and players as we gathered in the hospital waiting, hoping and praying that Rob, our guy would make it. We hurt deeply for his family, his friends and everyone that knew him.

Over the next three days there was an outpouring of prayer. During those three days we prayed for a miracle. An entire community came together in a way that I have never experienced. I prayed harder during those three days than I’ve ever prayed before. I was sad, I worried and I was angry. I kept asking the question why?

bible-verse-for-rob
A friend shared several handwritten verses with our coaches’ wives. I’ve carried this verse with me and recited it over and over again. 

On September 19, 2017, my husband told me that Rob passed away. As you can imagine, I was heartbroken. That night, our coaches had to tell their players that their best friend and teammate was gone. I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face when he came home that night or the silence in our home. I’m thankful for the other coaches’ wives and girlfriends on our staff because we had each other to lean on and confide in. This experience was uncharted territory for all of us. Coaches’ wives are known for being there for their husbands behind the scenes through wins, losses, hirings and firings. How do you support your husband when you know they are hurting but also trying to hold everything together for their team and their players?

rob-s-rainbow_orig
September 19, 2017, a double rainbow shined over Wichita Falls, Texas.​

The priority was no longer about winning football games. The priority was to honor Robert Grays and his family and to be there for our football family.

Saturday, September 23, 2017, our entire football team traveled to Rob’s hometown of Rosharon, Texas to honor Rob and celebrate his life at The Word of Restoration International Church. I can’t even put into words what we experienced that day. It was one of the most beautiful and powerful displays of faith I have ever witnessed. God was there and he wrapped his arms around all of us that day. We left there with peace and a purpose.

The most important thing I know about Rob is that he was a believer. He was strong in his Christian faith, believed in God and shared his faith with others. I obviously don’t know why certain things happen the way they do—but I do know that Rob touched a lot of people with his larger than life personality and contagious smile. I also know that Rob’s death impacted even more lives, including mine.

Rob taught us how to live. His family continues to show us how to have faith. We will now live with more purpose and stronger faith because of them. The mantra #24Strong will always stay with us. Although my son is only a year-old and doesn’t understand what happened this football season; he is going to grow up knowing who Robert Grays is and the impact he made on our family.

*The Midwestern State Mustang football team dedicated every game to their teammate Rob. They were #24Strong and continued to honor their friend and have faith in each other. They finished the regular football season undefeated, won the Lone Star Conference Championship and continued to the 2nd round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs finishing the season with a record of 10-1.

24strong_orig
My dad and my son walking to Memorial Stadium on September 30, 2017. This was our first game back after Rob passed away. 

coach-randy-wilkins-24strong
Our family after Midwestern State won over Western New Mexico 35-24. The number 24 appeared on the scoreboard two times this football season. The Mustangs allowed exactly 24 points in the first game after Rob passed away and scored 24 points at our last home game of the season.
24strong-score
Midwestern State wins 24-20 over Sioux Falls on November 18, 2017.
robert-grays_orig
In Memory of Robert Tyree Grays 
​1998-2017
Photo courtesy of Midwestern State University Athletics Department

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