Bray ready for coaching challenge
Published 1:29 am Saturday, June 30, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s a goal he hoped to achieve one day.
Dra Bray, the former Callaway High football star and graduate of Dawson Street Christian School, decided years ago that he wanted to go into coaching, and eventually lead a program.
Bray is getting that opportunity sooner than he expected.
When Unity Prep Academy hits the field for its season opener in August, Bray will lead the team onto the field as its head coach.
“It means a lot,” Bray said. “Me being a younger guy, 28-years-old, I never thought I’d be a head coach this early. It’s a dream come true. Who wouldn’t want to come back to your school and be a coach.”
Bray, after finishing his senior season on Callaway’s football team in 2007, transferred to Dawson Street Christian School, and he won a state championship in track and field the following spring.
A few years ago, Dawson Street Christian moved to Newnan, and the school was renamed Bethlehem Christian School.
Now, the school is returning to LaGrange, and it will be known as Unity Prep Academy.
The campus is located at what used to be Cannon Street Elementary School.
When athletics director Albert Jackson was looking for someone to lead the football program for the upcoming season, he thought of Bray.
Bray is well-known and highly-regarded in the community, he’s a former standout athlete at Dawson Street Christian, and he’s a college graduate.
Three other men who’ll be helping Bray coach, Shawn Render, Adrian Smith, Jr. and Tobias Gilbert, are also graduates of Dawson Street Christian.
“I needed somebody young, that was going to come out there and the kids would respect him, and trust him,” Jackson said. “I know he’s always been a people person.
“Everybody loves Dra. How I felt was, putting the school’s athletics in his hands was a real good choice.”
After leaving Dawson Street Christian School, Bray played college football at two different junior colleges.
In 2015, Bray returned to school and got a degree from Fort Valley State.
For the past few years, Bray has been instrumental in helping cousin and good friend Quan Bray get his professional football career off the ground.
Until recently, in fact, the two were together in Indianapolis where Quan Bray was playing for the Colts.
Quan Bray is now playing for the Buffalo Bills, and Dra Bray is back in LaGrange, a decade removed from his days as a standout high-school athlete.
“When I found out he was back home, I thought it was a no-brainer,” Jackson said.
For Dra Bray, it’s all about the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of young people.
“It’s one life at a time,” Bray said. “That’s my goal, to try to get them in college. If I can do that, I think I did my job.”
Helping Bray coach will be Shawn Render, who remembers how much Dawson Street Christian School meant to him when he was a teen-ager.
“It feels great to come back somewhere that gave me a chance,” Render said. “It feels great to come back and help the guys, the same way somebody helped me at that point in my life.”
Through football, Render believes he’ll be able to be a positive influence on the players he’ll be leading.
“That’s the main part, just to be able to impact lives,” Render said. “They make decisions now that’ll affect them later in life.”
Tobias Gilbert, who like Bray and Render graduated from Dawson Street Christian School, said it “means a lot” to come back and coach at his alma mater.
“I always wanted to coach,” Gilbert said. “I wanted to be there for kids, build a relationship with kids, let them know about life.”
During the summer, Bray will be getting to know his new players, and the team will host a seven-on-seven passing camp on July 12.
Unity Prep will play a preseason game on Aug. 10, and it will open the regular season at John Hancock on Aug. 18.
After another road game on Aug. 24 against Calvary-Columbus, Unity will make its home debut on Sept. 7 against the Douglasville Knights.
Unity Prep will play its home games at Hendrix Stadium in Hogansville.
Unity Prep will be a member of the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association, and it will be in Class AA.
Bray said the goal will be to win it all.
“I think we’ve got what it takes to win a state championship,” Bray said.