The idea of quitting football briefly crossed Quinn Gray's mind. The thought didn't last long.
"It seemed like football was the reason I couldn't be there," Gray said as he recalled the events of last Thursday morning, when his mother called him in Green Bay to tell him his father had passed away.
"All I could think is that would be the biggest mistake, to not do what my dad wanted me to do. My dad always wanted me to be a star quarterback in the league. There's nothing I want to do more to honor my dad," Gray said of what chased the thought of quitting football out of his consciousness.
Otis Gray was a legendary high school football coach in Fort Lauderdale. He died at the age of 62 in the wee hours of last Thursday morning, after a long bout with colon cancer. He'll be buried this Saturday, "at the church he's been going to since I can remember," his son, the Jaguars quarterback, said.
As the elder Gray was losing his battle with cancer, his son was in a fight for his professional football life. Almost cruelly, Quinn Gray will bury his farther on the same day the Jaguars will make their final roster cuts, making this the most difficult of times for a son who said he won't be able to accept that his father has left him until he sees him one more time.
"I got a call last Tuesday that I needed to come home, so I said I'd come home on Friday after the game," Gray said.
The following day he got another call from home; updated information that his father was failing. He heard his father in the background moaning and Gray began to prepare for the worst.
"My mother told him, 'It's Quinn,' and all I heard was, 'Tell him I love him,'" Gray said of his father's words in the background. "That's the last I had heard until the morning when my mom called me to tell me he had passed away."
Gray played briefly against the Packers. It was a struggle but it was what his father would've wanted; would've probably demanded. Gray's father was never formally his coach but "he coached me every step of the way.
"He always had advice, but there was never that tag that you're on the team because your dad is the coach," Gray said as he prepared to practice with his Jaguars teammates on Monday.
This Thursday night, in the preseason finale against Washington, Gray will almost certainly see significant playing time. A strong performance would go a long way toward convincing head coach Jack Del Rio to keep three quarterbacks on the roster.
"They got it," Gray said of his father's cancer. "They got rid of it. It came back this past year and it had spread. There was nothing they could do.
"I knew he was sick. I knew he was suffering a little bit. He was always in his recliner when I went home. I just didn't know he was declining that fast," Gray said.
Gray hadn't seen his father since before training camp. Gray returned to Jacksonville for some pre-camp conditioning, sprained his ankle and then found himself trying to get healthy at the same time that his father was losing his health.
"Once the ankle gets healthy, who knows what the future holds? I'm going to work like I always have," Gray said of the lifelong pursuit of his father's dream.