Earl Thomas on Jerry Gray: ‘He definitely helped me grow to be a better player’

Jerry Gray

Jerry Gray being selected for induction into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday did not go unnoticed by Earl Thomas.

And it’s understandable, because their careers have been interwoven since Thomas, the Seahawks’ All-Pro free safety, arrived on the University of Texas campus in 2007. Gray intercepted seven passes in 1984 to tie the Longhorns’ single-season record. Thomas broke it with eight in 2009. And when Thomas arrived in Seattle as a first-round draft choice in 2010, one guess who his position coach was. That’s right, it was Gray.

“When you leave a certain place, you definitely want to be remembered,” Thomas said today after working out in the Seahawks’ offseason program. “And coach Gray definitely is remembered there at UT. Our DB coach (Duane Akina) always does a great job of keeping the legacy of great players who did it before you, and coach Akina always said good things about coach Gray.

“He just got in the Hall of Fame, so I guess that says it all.”

Gray, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive back during his seven-season career with the Los Angeles Rams (1985-91), left the Seahawks’ coaching staff after that 2010 season to become the assistant head coach/defensive backs coach at Texas. But that lasted less than a month before Gray become defensive coordinator for the Titans.

“It is truly humbling. To know that they have voted you as one of the best players to ever play college football is humbling and hard to fathom,” Gray told the UT website. “When you go off to college, you don’t think that way – that I am going to be one of the best ever. It is a great honor and again, humbling.”

Thomas always will be able to say that he knew of Gray and then knew Gray before he officially became a Hall of Famer.

“It was funny that I broke his interception record and then got to see what type of guy he was when he coached me my first year in the league,” Thomas said. “He’s a very smart coach. I didn’t know too much about the NFL coaches and how they were going to attack the game. But he definitely helped me grow to be a better player.”

Make that a player that has started 48 regular-season games, and four playoff games, in his first three seasons with the Seahawks. And been voted to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons. And, last season, became the first Seahawks’ safety to be named first-team All-Pro since Kenny Easley in 1985.

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