E.A. Sports Today

From sandlot to stardom

Jerry Ray was a threat to score any time he stepped on the field; played collegiately for two legends

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final installment of a series highlighting the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2017.

By Jay Pace
For East Alabama Sports Today

On a football field there wasn’t much Jerry Ray couldn’t do.

He could block. He could catch. He could jump and he could run. So graceful, so smooth.

Like most young boys of his time, Ray gravitated towards sports at a very early age.

“I played lots of basketball and football,” Ray said of those early years. “Sandlot, you might call it.”


Despite the obvious pull sports had on his life, he didn’t begin playing organized sports until he was in the 7th grade.

“I got tired of watching all those other kids playing,” he said. “And I figured I could play football just as good as the rest of them.”

Jerry Ray couldn’t have been more wrong. He was better.

The precocious youngster took to organized football much the same way a baby duck takes to water. It just came natural. Let’s put it this way, the learning curve wasn’t very steep.

Jerry Ray was a natural-born athlete who was right at home every time he stepped on a football field. From the very first time he walked onto a football field, it was clear to the other kids that Jerry Ray was “just as good as them.”

Two years later, he started at running back for Oxford High School as a ninth grader. It was a position he would maintain for the entirety of his storybook prep career that ended with a scholarship to play football for Ralph “Shug” Jordan at Auburn University.

During his first year on the Plains, Ray played on the Tigers freshman football team coached by fella named Vince Dooley.

“At the time I didn’t know who Vince Dooley was,” explained Ray. “He was just a student assistant coach back then.”

Two decades later, that little-known assistant would lead Auburn’s hated rival, Georgia to a national championship.

Both of Ray’s college coaches, Dooley and Jordan, enjoyed ultra-successful coaching careers that eventually led to their induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Saturday night at the Oxford Civic Center their former pupil is one of six men being inducted into the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame. Along with Ray, the Class of 2017 features Stanley Bell, Mike Deerman, Billy Ferguson, Chip Howell and Ricky Weems.

“It’s really something to be in the (Hall of Fame),” Ray said. “It’s a great honor to me.”

Injuries sustained in his sophomore season at Auburn put an abrupt end to Ray’s college football career. Though it did little to diminish a storybook prep career at Oxford that featured his unanimous selection to the all county team in both his junior and senior year.

Following a sophomore campaign that ended with being named second-team all county Ray solidified his place among the best the county and, for that matter, the state had to offer just one year later.

That 1959 season was one of the finest ever turned in by a running back of his era. On the heels of back-to-back losing seasons, Ray lifted Oxford to a 6-3-1 finish on the strength of his 16 touchdowns. A diminutive, all purpose threat, Ray was the epitome of what coaches and fans refer to as a “home run threat.” Simply put, Jerry Ray was a legitimate threat to score every single time he stepped onto the field.

While the majority of those 16 touchdowns came on the ground (13) Ray demonstrated that home-run ability as he returned both a kickoff and punt return for touchdowns. He also had one receiving touchdown.

For his efforts, Ray was a unanimous all-county selection. The Anniston Quarterback Club named him the county’s most outstanding running back.

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