As far as the 2013 NFL draft is concerned, there were few surprises. The SEC did extremely well, and with four draftees, the Tennessee Volunteers did better than a program with three non-winning seasons in a row. Quarterback Tyler Bray, who was signed by former coach Lane Kiffen, was not drafted at all. Bray who wound up as the Vols second all-time leading career passer in most categories, defied most of the logic of NFL scouts, when he was totally ignored. He had the size, (6’-6” 230 pounds) he had a strong throwing arm, and he set records while playing in the always tough Southeastern Conference. He should have been a first round pick, but his best option was to sign as a free agent with the lowly Kansas City Chiefs.
Bray threw 34 TD passes last season with just 12 interceptions. Great numbers, especially when you consider he played a tough SEC schedule, but his win-loss record as a starting quarterback for the Vols was much less than impressive.
Every quarterback who ever plays at Tennessee will no doubt be compared to Peyton Manning. That seems to be a bit unfair, as Peyton not only had the size but he had a tremendous work ethic and great knowledge of the game. He worked as hard or harder than anyone on the field, but no one who ever played can match the intensity Peyton has shown in the film room. Tyler Bray has exhibited none of those film room or team leadership abilities. While Manning will be remembered as one of the great college and pro quarterbacks of all-time, Bray will very likely be remembered for his throwing beer bottles at parked cars from just outside his apartment. He will also be remembered for being one of the most unpopular Tennessee quarterbacks ever.
How does a talented young football player like Tyler Bray get into this position? Simple; he has yet to mature or grow up as a person. He has all the ability in the world, but he has no idea how to use that ability. He would rather “play around” than play football. He has never learned how to be responsible, in a world and in a game that demands it. In fairness to him, there are very few Peyton Mannings in our world. More people are like Tyler Bray than are like Peyton Manning. It’s not that he cannot be successful, but he may not be able to achieve the success that Peyton has achieved.
I am pulling for Tyler Bray to get his life in order. I want him to be successful as a pro quarterback, but he has a long, long, way to go. Young people, especially young men are maturing much later in life than in my generation. They say that, “30 is now the new 20.” If that’s the case, he may have a little more time, but I’m not sure if that can be said for life in the National Football League. If you go into NFL training camps needing to mature, it must be done quickly.
One of Bray’s teammates at Tennessee, receiver Da’Rick Rogers from nearby Calhoun, Georgia was also undrafted last week. While Bray was able to stay out of enough trouble to stay through his junior year, Rogers practically stayed in Coach Derek Dooley’s dog house, until Coach Dooley finally kicked him off the team. He played one year at Tennessee Tech, went undrafted, and signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills. Like Bray, Rogers needs to mature quickly.
The book has not been closed yet on Tyler Bray’s career as a football player; but readers are already becoming bored with it. Unless he makes a complete turn-around he will be twenty-three years old, out of a job and wondering, “what happened?”
Randy Smith has been covering sports in Tennessee for the last 43 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has continued his broadcasting career as a free-lance play-by-play announcer. He is also an author and is a media concepts teacher at Brainerd High School in Chattanooga. He is also the Head Softball Coach at Brainerd. Randy Smith's career has included a 17-year stint as scoreboard host and pre-game talk show host on the widely regarded "Vol Network". He has also done play by play of more than 500 college football, basketball, baseball and softball games on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, CSS and Tennessee Pay Per View telecasts. He was selected as "Tennessee's Best Sports Talk Show Host" in 1998 by the Associated Press. He has won other major awards including, "Best Sports Story" in Tennessee and his "Friday Night Football" shows on WRCB-TV twice won "Best Sports Talk Show In Tennessee" awards. He has also been the host of "Inside Lee University Basketball" on CSS for the past 11 years. He was the first television broadcaster to ever be elected to the "Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame", in 2003. Randy and his wife, Shelia, reside in Hixson. They have two married children (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith). They also have three grandchildren (Coleman, Boone, and DellaMae).