Former Opelika athlete encourages student-athletes to speak out against racism

Former Opelika athlete encourages student-athletes to speak out against racism
Jeremy Gray speaks to a crowd of protesters at a rally in Auburn last weekend. (Source: Jeremy Gray)

OPELIKA, Ala. (WSFA) - Jeremy Gray always thought he’d grow up and play in the league.

"Every child dreams of going pro,” said Gray. “I did aspire to play in the NFL and win Super Bowls, and all those things, but sometimes the reality of it is that some of the greatest players aren't going to make it to the NFL."

Prior to becoming a representative for the 83rd District, he was a standout three-sport athlete at Opelika High.

“I was an All-State football player, All-Area basketball player, and a two-time state champion in track and field,” he said.

Following high school, he made the tough decision to go out of state for college football, choosing North Carolina State over the SEC - including his dream school of Auburn.

"From the time I was a small boy, to the time I was a senior, I just knew I was going to Auburn University,” said Gray. “But when you have to pick and figure out what programs really fits you, I picked North Carolina State because they liked the big corners, and the ACC had the big 6’4’’ wide receivers. Their defense really fit the scheme that I was good at."

He went on to have success with the Wolfpack, but when his dream of making it as a professional football player didn't pan out, Jeremy made the decision to focus on his community. He returned to Opelika after spending time in arena football and in the CFL, starting a nonprofit and helping the younger generation.

“I became a politician because I saw the need for change. I just saw that we needed leadership,” he said. “We needed younger leadership, and I just knew that I didn’t necessarily want to be the change. I wish somebody else would have ran, but sometimes in life, you just want to be the example. And so in order to be the example, you have to put in the leg work, so I guess this is my definition or this is my example of putting in the leg work.”

Last Sunday when Auburn held a peaceful protest at Toomer’s Corner, Jeremy joined the crowd, and used his voice to speak up about the problems in our country; he did it with the Auburn student-athletes alongside him.

"The whole time I was doing my speech last Sunday, I was just thinking, ‘Man I’m so proud of these athletes,’ because they’re using their platform like never before. They didn’t have to come out here - people are gonna love them whether they come out and protest or not,” said Gray.

With the future still uncertain and people still in the streets, Jeremy hopes to inspire other athletes to use their voices to speak out about the things they care about.

“I think people are going to follow you no matter what, because you play sports. It’s about what do you do with that power you have,” he said.

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