Arthur Ray, Curie’s new football coach, is only 29. Many assistant coaches wait years before getting a chance to run a program. But Ray has more experience—in football and in life—than most people his age.
“I’ve been coaching since I quit playing [in 2015],” Ray said. “Once I was done at De La Salle, I knew that coaching was something I wanted to pursue.”
Ray was an offensive line coach at De La Salle and ran his own offensive lineman camp before taking the job at Curie.
Mount Carmel offensive tackle Marcelo Mendiola, a senior who will play at Cincinnati next year, attended Ray’s camp.
“[Ray] does it for the kids,” Mendiola said. “Not the money. He genuinely cares and he is very passionate about the game. He taught me a lot about pass protection and moving my feet. Coach was very instrumental in me getting my scholarship.”
Ray played college football at Michigan State and spent a training camp with the Miami Dolphins.
“There’s a bunch of coaches out there who’ve been doing this longer than I have,” Ray said. “But there aren’t too many coaches in Chicago who have the next level football knowledge. Age is not a thing for me. Growing up playing, there weren’t too many coaches who had my background. I wanted to come back and be an example for the guys.”
Ray has already lived through more than most people his age.
He was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2007, his senior year of high school. He battled it with the same force that made him an All-American offensive lineman at Mount Carmel.
During his time in East Lansing, Ray received the Discover Orange Bowl/Football Writers Association of America Courage Award, given to the “player, coach or support person in college football who displays courage, on or off the field.”
Ray grew up in the Roseland neighborhood. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college. He often talks to his players, a team comprised of mostly black and latino kids, about some of the issues that have divided the country recently: violence in Chicago and the police brutality protests that take place during the national anthem.
“I care more about them as men than football players,” Ray said. “Whatever we do, we do it as a team. They are aware of what’s going on in the world and in the city. I keep it real and honest with my players. They are not oblivious to what goes on in Chicago. They are from the areas [where] people are getting shot and they’ve had interactions with the police.”
Curie was 9-4 last season under former coach Jay McDonagh. The Condors bring back a senior-led group. Several already have college scholarship offers, including running back AJ Sanya, defensive end/linebacker Dupree Allen, linebacker Avantay McClinton and cornerback DJ Howard.
Ray wants to duplicate what he saw at Mount Carmel in terms of getting parents, alumni and community stakeholders involved in the success of the Curie football program.
“It’s a change from what I had in high school, but I have a great support system here at Curie,” Ray said. “The administration has backed me as much as they can. I’m a resourceful guy. That’s been my story throughout my entire journey.”
Curie opens the season on Friday at Willowbrook.
More high school football stories:
- The 2018 Sun-Times Super 25 football teams
- The Top 10 running backs
- The Top 10 receivers
- The Top 10 defensive players
- Mount Carmel’s new coach on what’s ahead this season
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