The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 15, 2014

Former Pitt star who recruited in Johnstown dies

JOHNSTOWN — Curtis Bray was one of the biggest influences on LaRod Stephens-Howling’s decision to play football at the University of Pittsburgh.

Stephens-Howling’s four years at Pitt eventually led the Greater Johnstown High School graduate to a career as a NFL running back and kick returner.

News of Bray’s death at age 43 on Wednesday hit Stephens-Howling hard.

“He definitely was the first coach that called me and recruited me. He was a great guy. I’m shocked,” Stephens-Howling said during a Wednesday telephone interview in Pittsburgh.

“He was always smiling. I can just picture him smiling,” added Stephens-Howling, who is rehabilitating after a season-ending knee injury he suffered in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ regular-season opener. “Curtis was definitely a great guy. He always checked on me. He was a big reason I chose to go to Pitt.”

Reports stated Bray died while working out in Iowa. He was an assistant coach on the Iowa State football team the past five seasons.

A highly-recruited linebacker, Bray graduated from Pitt in 1992. He spent seven seasons as an assistant coach of the Panthers and established close ties to then defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads. Bray eventually made more trips to Johnstown as the Panthers recruited players such as future Pitt cornerback Antwuan Reed.

Eventually, Bray followed Rhoads to Ames, Iowa, as the Cyclones’ defensive line coach.

His previous assistant coaching experience included stops with Temple, Duquesne, Western Kentucky and Villanova.

“He was a very likable and pleasant individual,” said former Johnstown High coach Bob Arcurio, who guided Stephens-Howling through the recruiting process during the 2004-05 academic year. “Curtis came to watch LaRod play a game. He left at halftime.

“His statement when I was walking into the locker room at halftime was, ‘I saw enough.’ LaRod had something like five touchdowns at halftime.”

Bray’s high school career was filled with similar highlights. He was the first defensive player to be honored as the Gatorade National High School Football Player of the Year. Bray was a first-team USA Today All-American in 1987 out of Gateway High in Monroeville.

The University of Pittsburgh Athletic Department released a statement:

“The Pitt Football Family is shocked and saddened to hear of Curtis Bray’s untimely passing. Curtis made incredible contributions as both a player and assistant coach at Pitt. His competitive nature on the field was only surpassed by his kind and gentle demeanor off of it.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and many loved ones. While Curtis will be greatly missed, he will not be forgotten by the many people he touched at Pitt.”

Bray is survived by his wife, Heather, a daughter, Sydney, and a son, Colden Charles.

Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at


Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Dodgers Pirates Polanco, Walker lift Pirates over Dodgers

    Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a solo home run and a tiebreaking two-run single, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
    Polanco, hitting just .133 in his previous 11 games, smacked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth to put Pittsburgh in front for good.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • ACC Kickoff Football ACC schools get optimism from stability

    Welcome to the new Atlantic Coast Conference.
    It’s where a founding member is out, a fast-rising program is in, Notre Dame is there, too – sort of – and nobody else is leaving.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • aaaba 0721 Martella’s sweeps past Delweld

    A six-run rally in the first helped guide Martella’s Pharmacy to an 8-1 win over Delweld in Game 3 of their best-of-5 AAABA League semifinal series at Point Stadium, sweeping the series in the process.
    That rally also continued season-long trends for the clubs, according to their respective managers.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • warshel_0721 Warshel selecting UPJ

    For Kelci Warshel, the call to attend Pitt-Johnstown was based on the availability of her desired major – nursing.
    Taking an opportunity to join the university’s women’s track and field program was a very nice add-on and one that the Richland High graduate is ready to jump into ...
    ... Or hurdle over.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitt picked sixth in cluttered Coastal

    Florida State was an obvious choice as a favorite in one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s divisions.
    In the other one, the pecking order was nowhere near that clear.

    July 21, 2014

  • Local Sports Briefs

    July 21, 2014

  • American Legion Region 7: Bedford gets past Clearfield

    Bedford’s Jake Stover had two hits with double and three RBIs in a 9-6 win against host Clearfield in the Pa. American Legion Region 7 Tournament.

    July 21, 2014

  • American Legion Region 7: Claysburg edges Beech Creek

    Claysburg’s Mike Mock went 2-for-2 with a two-run home run in the fourth inning to help his squad get by Beech Creek 7-6 during Sunday’s winners-bracket game in the Pa. American Legion Region 7 Tournament.

    July 21, 2014

  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo