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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On this date: Cortez Kennedy elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Cortez Kennedy

A look at some memorable moments in Seahawks history that occurred on Feb. 4:

1990: Dave Krieg completes 15 of 23 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, but the NFC wins the Pro Bowl 27-21. Jerry Gray, a cornerback for the Rams who would go on to coach the Seahawks’ defensive backs in 2010, is named MVP after returning an interception 51 yards for a TD and also registering seven tackles. Rufus Porter (two tackles) and Brian Blades (one reception) also represent the Seahawks in the game.

1996: Chris Warren leads the NFC with 43 rushing yards, but the NFC wins the Pro Bowl 20-13.

1998: Jim Johnson is named linebackers coach on Dennis Erickson’s staff. Johnson remains for only one season before becoming the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, but his impact on the Seahawks’ defense is apparent even after he leaves.

2010: First-year coach Pete Carroll announces his staff: Jeremy Bates (offensive coordinator), Gus Bradley (defensive coordinator), Brian Schneider (special teams coordinator), Kippy Brown (wide receivers), Luke Butkus (quality control/offensive line), Dave Canales (quality control/offense), Chris Carlisle (head strength and conditioning), Jedd Fisch (quarterbacks), Mondray Gee (assistant strength and conditioning), Alex Gibbs (offensive line), Jerry Gray (defensive backs), Kris Richard (assistant defensive backs), Rocky Seto (quality control/defense), Sherman Smith (running backs), Jeff Ulbrich (assistant special teams), Art Valero (assistant offensive line) and Jamie Yancher (assistant strength and conditioning).

2012: Cortez Kennedy, in his seventh year of eligibility and fourth year as a finalist, is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. An eight-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the NFL Team of the Decade for the 1990s as a defensive tackle, Kennedy joins Steve Largent as the only career-long Seahawks player in the Hall.

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