Remembering T-Ray

By Paul Morantz
     He called this evening from his apartment somewhere in LA.  He wanted to check in and see how I was doing.  On the speaker phone I introduced him to my son who is the same age now as he and I were then.
     It was smack in the middle of the revolutionary 60’s, but while Berkeley students wore gas masks to the library USC jocks threatened anyone even thinking about flag burning.   It wouldn’t be to around 1970 until the 60’s reached USC.  Kent State finally brought it out.  Most of the decade it seemed Troy was forever stuck in the 50’s if not earlier.  On this island Coeds were pinned and sung too, old sweaters worn and fellowship ruled the day.  It was still the Nelson family and Father Knows Best era.  Kids went to the game to cheer out loud, not to drink it.  Most knew most on campus.  Every stroll across campus was a social event.  It was a glorious time.
    Being a long time Trojan I had to be part of it all and the Daily Trojan, as I liked writing, seemed a natural.  Twenty years old when and I was doing weekly interviews with John McKay.  Football players got a fraction of that time.  Two years later I was covering 67 NC season.  I counted as friends our current AD, did the first LA interview with OJ, tangled with Goux, hung with Holmgren, Bowie, Sid Smith, Sogge, Earl the Pearl, Ron Drake, Chip Oliver, the Wild Bunch, Mike Battle, Pat Cashman, etc.  Once when my car stalled on Figueroa Ron Yary by himself pushed it until it started.
   But for me the guy who stood out—the special one—was one who did not often see the playing field—Terrell Ray now AKA T-Ray.   A JC WR transfer, he won his stardom on campus more than the field.  I don’t remember exactly how our friendship started, but I remember admiring him so.   You see, walking down campus he turned more heads than OJ.  He was tall, handsome, and always upbeat.  The smile was eternal and infectious.  And he had a certain amount of mischief about him.  Charm and class was what he had.
   All the coeds it seemed had a crush.  T-Ray changed USC.  He brought them into the present.   It took him a long time to cross the campus because everyone had to say their hellos. I used to try to chide McKay into playing him more, but unfortunately this was era of Ron Drake, Earl, Jim Lawrence, Bobby Chandler, Sam’s corner, etc.  But when T made a special team tackle the section went crazy.  Everyone knew him. 
   We played a lot of basketball together, he was an athlete and I was a want-to-be athlete who worked real hard.  I could score and he could do everything so we won a lot of games.   I brought him in as a ringer for DT-DB game, and the Bruins countered with a member of their varsity NC team.  At least they didn’t bring Wooden to coach.  We still almost got the upset.
  At times when he did not travel, we went to the games together and had some hell-raising times.  Most of it seems a blur, but one of the great things of youth is that you love your friends.  I remember in Berkeley calling him OJ so people would think he was him.  He hated it.
  And so 30 years some passed until I read in 2006 PC had hired T as a coach and to overseer a new needed watch dog program on players.  Despite his age, I knew he would fit right in with team.
   So I came to a practice and looked for him.  Some how he passed by me through the gate and although I was ill I looked for him.  PC was sitting on a cornerstone and I asked if he knew where Terrell was.  Probably the cafeteria he said.  So I walked off and looked.  I looked in a lot of places for almost an hour, including the offices.
   Finally PC called over to me and pointed up the steps of Heritage.  There he was.  I approached.  He looked right at me, it took a bit before I saw that grin again.  I don’t know what PC thought when he saw us hugging on the stairways.
   T took me for a ride on his cart.  He introduced me to players and said I was a former Sports Editior who was his friend back in our college days.  Mays was the most interested and asked me for writing tips.  Most of all I felt like we were back in time and nothing had changed.  It seemed every coed we passed knew him and said high T-Ray just like they did back then (only then it was “Hi Terrell”).  He waved at each in same manner he did then.  Yes we had aged, but he was still same.  And I still admired that everyone still loved him, whole knew generations.
     T could see walking was at times for me an ordeal and drove me to my car.
    We have spoken a few times since.  I look for him at practices when I can go.  And tonight there was the message on machine asking how I was.
    Terrell Ray was not an All-American.  He was and is much more than that.