Melvin (Mel) Gray is widely considered to be one of the greatest return specialists of all times in the National Football League (NFL).
Gray was a two sport athlete who excelled in football and track at Williamsburg, Virginia’s Lafayette High School. He earned All Peninsula District, All Regional and All State honors in football and track. During the 1979 football season, Gray’s senior year, he was the District’s leading rusher with 1353 yards. Gray proved to be remarkably durable. He carried the ball 35 times for 204 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in his final high school game, a victory over Richmond’s Armstrong –Kennedy.
After graduating from Lafayette High, he attended Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. Based on his performance at Coffeyville, Gray earned a football scholarship to Purdue University.
During the 1982 season, he was Purdue’s top rusher with 916 yards. After his two outstanding years at Purdue, was drafted in round 2 of the 1984 United States Football League (USFL) draft. He debuted in 1984 with the USFL’s Los Angeles Express. After the USFL folded in August 1986, Gray joined the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
He played 12 seasons in professional football. During this period he played for the following teams: LA Express (1984); Oklahoma/Arizona Outlaws (1984-1985); New Orleans Saints (1986-1988); Detroit Lions (1989-1994); Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers (1995-1997); and Philadelphia Eagles (1997).
Gray is most recognized professionally for his six seasons with the Detroit Lions. During his tenure with the Lions, he became the franchise’s all-time leader in career kickoff returns (216), career kickoff return yards (5,478), career kickoff returns for touchdowns (5),most kickoff returns for touchdowns in a season (3, 1994), highest kickoff return average in a season (28.36, 1994) and career punt return yards (1,427).
Gray was a four-time Pro Bowl selection in Detroit (1991-93, 1995), and he was named All Pro by numerous publications in each season from 1990-94. When Gray left professional football after 12 seasons, he was atop several all-time NFL kick return lists. Gray was ranked 5th as one of the greatest return specialists on the NFL Network’s NFL Top 10 Return Aces.
Gray also was selected as a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and the USFL All- Time Team First team.
In 2003.Mel Gray was among the first inductees into Lafayette’s Hall Fame along with football great Lawrence Taylor and 2011 HRAASHF inductee Ron Springs.