Jerry Gray was aware that a higher power might be trying to tell him something.
The Seattle Seahawks opened the preseason against the Tennessee Titans this year where, as the Seahawks’ defensive backs coach, Gray saw former Longhorn safety Michael Griffin in action. Two weeks later, the Seahawks played the Minnesota Vikings and cornerback Cedric Griffin. A week later, they finished the preseason against the Oakland Raiders and safety Michael Huff.
“That was probably a sign,” Gray said.
Gray returned to Austin yesterday, as UT’s new defensive backs and assistant coach. Gray replaces Duane Akina, who left for Arizona after nine seasons at Texas.
“I’m very gracious and humbled to have a chance to come back here and coach,” Gray said.
Gray played cornerback at Texas from 1981-1984 and is a member of the Longhorn Hall of Honor. He coached in the NFL for nine seasons, but said the opportunity to coach at his alma mater with Mack Brown was too good to pass up.
“Having the chance to come back here and really, hopefully be a part of what Coach Mack has done here [lured me from the NFL],” Gray said. “He’s been here and had tremendous years. I just want to be able to be a tutor under him and understand what he’s done.”
Gray met Brown last spring at an alumni golf tournament, and the two kept in touch during the fall, as the Longhorns struggled to a 5-7 record.
“I texted him that I was with him because, you know, being an alumni and also having a chance to coach [Seattle Seahawks safety] Earl Thomas, and knowing how close he was to the program,” Gray said.
Gray will work with newly hired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz on a secondary that allowed only 161 yards passing per game last season, second best in the Big 12.
“I got a chance to talk with Manny, and his philosophy is pretty similar,” Gray said. “Hopefully I’ll get a chance to get under him and give him some ideas, and hopefully we win a lot of games.”
Though he has more coaching experience than Diaz and is 12 years his senior, Gray said it wouldn’t be a factor in their relationship.
“Manny wanted that job. He got it,” Gray said. “My job is to support him. That’s what I’m going to do. We’re going to make sure it works. With Coach Brown and his authority over us, we’re going to make sure it works.”