Bills WR still haunted by chilling details of mother's murder, fuels him in NFL


Buffalo Bills wide receiver Quan Bray has a heartbreaking past that fuels him to succeed in the NFL.

In 2011, when he was 18 years old, Bray was driving near his home in LaGrange, Georgia, when his phone kept ringing. He didn’t answer it, as he was driving, but he pulled over when he saw the calls were from both his mother and father, according to a report from Joe Buscaglia of WKBW-TV in Buffalo, New York.

Bray called both of them back, but neither picked up.

He had text messages, too. One was from his father, who told him to check on his mother, reported WKBW. Other messages alerted him that someone was shooting at his mother’s car. He frantically drove to see his mother, who was at his grandmother’s house.

“I pulled up to my grandmother’s house to pull up to her car,” Bray told WKBW. “In front of there, there were a couple of bullet holes and stuff. Police was surrounding and all that stuff, so I was the first one on the scene to see that. And the only thing they were just telling me was just to go to the hospital.”

PGA Tour Golfer Dies a Day After Suddenly Withdrawing from Tournament

He went to the hospital and learned the unthinkable: His mother, Tonya Bray, just 37 years old, was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

She had been such a positive influence in his life, and now she was gone.

“Definitely larger than life. A positive, positive energy,” Bray told WKBW. “Every game, people around, they would tell you, ‘You hear your mama in the stands, you make sure you know what you’re doing.'”

“Every time you see her she’s smiling. No matter if she’s down or what, she’s always showing all 32 — all 32 teeth, she’s always showing them,” Bray said. “People tell me I’m always smiling too, though, but I don’t have no choice because I have her smile.”

Tonya kept Quan on the straight and narrow, which led to him getting a scholarship to play wide receiver at Auburn University. But she would never see the player he became.

He went on to become one of the Tigers’ top receivers and was among the best punt returners in the nation. Despite going undrafted, Bray made the Colts practice squad in 2015 and played for two seasons. He wound up playing in nine games in 2015 and six games in 2016.

The Bills signed him to their practice squad last December and then inked him to a reserve/future contract in January.

Fact Check: Did Harrison Butker Really Say We Should Go Back to When 'Women Had More Babies Than Thoughts'?

The cruel twist to Bray’s story is who shot his mother. Just hours after her death, his father, Jeffrey Jones, who had been separated from his wife for six months, turned himself in. Jones had killed the mother of Quan and his younger brother, Jymere. He had run her off the road and shot her dead. Jones was convicted of murder and sent to prison for the rest of his life.

“I just bust out in tears, start crying, because I thought my life was over with then,” Bray told WKBW. “I didn’t know what to do. I just lost my mom and my dad.”

He recalled the text his dad sent him while he was driving that day.

“Just to come off a text message from him telling me to just go check on my mom, thinking like he didn’t just do it,” Bray said. “I guess the devil gets on people like that.”

He has not only become a father figure to Jymere, but he has started a foundation to help kids cope with domestic violence: the Quan Bray All-Purpose Foundation.

Bray has refused to let this tragedy defeat him and uses the memory of his mother to drive him to succeed, because that’s what she would have wanted.

“It happened for a reason, so I just use this, this life right here, this football life as a burden as far as my getaway, my freedom,” Bray told WKBW. “It was a tragic moment in my life, but, a lot of people would make that a downfall, make that an excuse. But, I don’t think that was meant for me to make an excuse. I think it was meant for me to keep pushing.”

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

, ,
Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
Languages Spoken
Topics of Expertise