Hightower High School graduate Robert Grays, a sophomore general business major and football player at Midwestern State, died Tuesday afternoon at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston. He was 19.
Grays suffered a severe neck injury while making a tackle with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter of MSU’s 35-13 win over Texas A&M-Kingsville Sept. 16 at Memorial Stadium.
The 5-8, 160-pound cornerback received treatment overnight at United Regional Medical Center before he was transported to Houston Sunday afternoon.
“Robert touched many lives while attending the university, but perhaps he will be remembered best for his smile,” MSU President Suzanne Shipley said. “He was an inspiration on and off the field to those around him, and he will be remembered with love and affection by his friends, classmates, coaches and teammates.”
Grays played an integral part in helping the Mustangs to an NCAA Division II playoff appearance and an 8-3 record as a true freshman which included a start in his collegiate debut. He finished the campaign with 24 tackles, while also helping out on special teams as a return specialist.
He earned a starting role at right cornerback this season. He matched a career high with seven tackles and broke up two passes in his final game against Texas A&M-Kingsville.
“We are saddened by the loss of Robert Grays, one of our own. This is not an easy time for anyone associated with the football program,” MSU coach Bill Maskill said. “He was a tremendous individual. I really believe he might have been the most popular man on our team. He always had a smile on his face. I never saw him have a bad day. He was an uplifting spirit for all of us. He was an exciting, fun loving guy. He’s going to be sorely missed. Somehow, someway we’ll find a way to fight through it. Robert would want us to forge ahead.”
Prior to Midwestern State, Grays enjoyed a standout prep career at Hightower High School in Missouri City. He was a two-time, first-team all-district performer helping the Hurricanes to three league titles. Grays played cornerback at Hightower, helping lift the Hurricanes to a perfect 10-0 regular season in 2015.
“The tragedy has struck at the heart of the community, and has affected us in many ways,” Shipley said. “Today, I encourage you to join with your peers to help one another. Together we are stronger.”
The funeral was held at Word of Restoration International Church in Rosharon. It was packed with friends, family and former teammates. The entire Midwestern State football team also attended the service.
Grays’ great uncle, Bruce Lane, told KTRK-TV that people couldn’t help but love him because of the attitude he brought with him.
“If you’ve seen the movie ‘Rudy,’ he had that type of intensity. He was a hard worker. And when you talk about that smile, it wasn’t just a smile, it was an infectious type smile,” Lane said.