Curtis Israel Gray

Curtis Matanzas was born in 2000

Curtis “Curt” Israel Gray

radiantly entered the world on December 11, 2000, a new millennial baby boy born to Curtis B. Gray and mother Carmen Alexis Gray.  His sister had been eagerly awaiting her baby brother’s arrival with avid anticipation.  Being the eldest by 2 years she curiously entered the hospital room shortly after the arrival of her baby brother, looked at her mother’s belly with anticipation wondering if he had entered the world.  When she discovered he was no longer taking up residency there, she quickly decided it was time for him and mommy to come home from the hospital.  It was during Curtis arrival at his new home that Destiny felt it was her job as big sister to dote on him.  Carmen made Destiny sit in a recliner and gently placed her new baby brother on her lap, she curiously peered over into his little face around the blanket surrounding him, and after hearing him make gurgly baby noises Destiny simply asked, “What’s wrong Man?”  It was from that time on that Curt’s family affectionately called him “Man” a nick name he lived up to.


Curtis was born in Lake Butler, FL but moved to Atlanta, Ga in 2001 at 6 weeks old.  He began speaking at the age of 15 mos. in full commanding sentences and from that time on, his way with words never ceased to amaze his listeners.  It was apparent to his parents, he was a special little boy so they put he and his sister through private school, music lessons, theater and auditions.  Curtis landed a small role in a low-budget movie and was full of starry eyed hopefulness until he had to put in a gruesome long day on set, and decided after his temporary attempt at acting to pursue other interests.  His mother knew that his willingness to tackle any opportunity would pave the way for him to reach the stars one day.  He was a child full of hope, optimism and a love for adventure, a trait he gained equally from both his parents.  This trait would eventually lead him to pursue his love for sports in football and Track & Field.


In 2010 after the economic downturn, the Gray family moved to Port Charlotte, FL and settled into a rural community with an amazing church.  It was here that Curtis would establish a love for God and church.  He found his roots in community outreach through the Children’s Ministry and eagerly begin helping with community initiatives to feed the poor; participate in community youth organizations and camps.  After a year in Port Charlotte, the family then transferred to Palm Coast, Flagler County in November 2011.  Once the family arrived and settled in, Curtis began his academic career at Rymfire Elementary School and decided he wanted to play football but mom said “no’.  

 

In 2012, Curtis encountered a life changing surgery that would impact him the rest of his life.  He called his mom one day complaining of stomach pain.  The symptoms mimicked Appendicitis, after hours of near death surgery, it was discovered that Curtis had a mass on his intestines and it pushed the appendix underneath the intestine resulting in a surgical procedure that led to a cut artery.  The doctor’s told Curtis’ mom that it was nothing else they could do and she should pray.  She did, and Curtis recovered, but he lived with immense pain after the procedure, but it did not detour his love for football; his very protective mom still said “no” after a constant plea from him to play.  Finally, at 14 years old, and hundreds of pleas later, Carmen decided to give her son a chance to play.  He was a late bloomer coming on the field.  He didn’t know the plays, most of his teammates had seven years or more experience than him, but it was fine with Curtis, he was finally in the game with Wolf Pack under the leadership of Dr. “Coach” Curt Schalit who became such an inspiration and icon in his life.  

In life there will be mountains and valleys, highs and lows, wins and loses; but what matters most is “how” you handle to defeat. 

Curtis Matanzas Assisting with Food Pantry

#64 Assisting with Food Pantry

It was during this time that Curtis experienced a season of winning, and winning and winning.  Dr. Schalit led his team to incredible victories, they were the 2014 SJRFC Conference Champions (Undefeated).  An excited Curtis was on a pinnacle all the way to the State Championship, in which he was very optimistic and stoked, however, for the first time, he experienced the stinging reality of defeat.  

 

His mom listened to her son pour his heart out in anguish as he cried with his team-mates and coaches on the loss.  Carmen consoled her son, praised him on making it to the State Championship and all the discipline and effort that gained him that opportunity, but she used that moment to teach him a very valuable life lesson about defeat.  She admonished her son to understand that in life there will be mountains and valleys, highs and lows, wins and loses; but what matters most is “how” you handle to defeat.  

Curtis assisting with Young Readers book club

#81 Curtis assisting with Young Readers book club

It was a lesson that for the rest of his career in sports made him the most valuable player.

Curtis would experience defeat and still applaud his teammates, still get back in the game with a winning attitude.  His coaches marveled at his character in being able to be that athlete with great leadership skills and ability to be genuinely enthusiastic for other team mates’ victories even if his wasn’t as sweet.  

 

The true art of winning is mastering how you lose.  Curtis mother taught him the secret to always staying on top is in one’s “attitude”.  

“Whatever he had to do to help the team, he did it. You don’t really find a lot of kids like that."

FPC's Curtis Gray competing in the triple jump at the district meet on April 9. File photo 

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Curtis Matanzas Triple Jump

Shawn Gordon, a distance runner and one of the Bulldogs’ senior leaders, didn’t know what to expect of the 6-foot, 160-pound, lanky athlete who stood before him. He was shocked by Curtis’ friendliness, his outgoing personality. By the end of the practice, Curtis was friends with most everyone on the team — and his new head coach was just as impressed. “He seemed eager to work hard and get better” Bulldogs coach David Halliday said. “Whatever I asked him to do he did, and he was always pushing his teammates to do better.”

FPC's Curtis Gray competing in the triple jump at the district meet on April 9, 2019. File photo 

This season has to be for him. He wouldn’t want us to be grieving. He’d want us to keep going.

Curtis Matanzas Triple Jump

Curtis-leap

He sparked something in me that I hadn’t had in a while. It’s inspiring to work with an athlete who had that kind of desire.

Before, I was doing it for me. Now, I’m doing it for him, and I can’t let him down. This season has to be for him. He wouldn’t want us to be grieving. He’d want us to keep going.” 

 

Shawn Gordon, a distance runner and one of the Bulldogs’ senior leaders, didn’t know what to expect of the 6-foot, 160-pound, lanky athlete who stood before him. He was shocked by Curtis’ friendliness, his outgoing personality.

 

By the end of the practice, Curtis was friends with most everyone on the team — and his new head coach was just as impressed. “He seemed eager to work hard and get better,” Bulldogs coach David Halliday said. “Whatever I asked him to do he did, and he was always pushing his teammates to do better.”

 

Curtis competed in the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes for the Bulldogs this season — until February. Curtis got into a car crash. He wasn’t seriously injured, but it was enough to keep him from competing. Unable to work out, he fell behind and out of shape. But the coaching staff found out that Curtis had triple jumped as a sophomore at Matanzas. It was a weak spot for an otherwise talented squad. Eager to help his team in any way he could, he decided to try it. Curtis worked tirelessly with Bulldogs jumps coach Alex Giorgianni over the coming weeks, rediscovering his technique and raw athletic ability. And on March 9, Curtis leapt a season-best 42 feet and 5.25 inches to earn a silver medal at the Five Star Conference Championship. “I wish I had 100 kids like him,” Giorgianni said. “He sparked something in me that I hadn’t had in a while. It’s inspiring to work with an athlete who had that kind of desire.”

Curtis, like his teammates, had his sights set on reaching the state track meet on May 3 and 4 at the University of North Florida. But after finishing fifth at the 4A District 1 meet April 9, he just missed out on qualifying for regionals. Despite the sting of defeat, despite falling short of his goal, he showed up at the Bulldogs’ next practice, ready to encourage his teammates, to remind them of all their sacrifices and work, to remind them that although his season was over, theirs wasn’t. “He’s the ultimate team guy,” Giorgianni said. “Whatever he had to do to help the team, he did it. You don’t really find a lot of kids like that

In 2015-2018, Curtis played Junior Varsity and Varsity with Matanzas High School Pirate Nation, during this time, Matanzas would have a 2 year winning streak under Coach Ripley and the new Principal, Dr. Earl Johnson, Jr,. Once again Curtis felt encouraged by the momentum. Between 2016 and 2018, Curtis ran Track & Field, and played football, during that time, he broke his right ankle at the growth plate and broke the inner bones of his left foot.  


After a gruesome summer in 2018, under a new coach Don Mathews, Curtis was heralded as Most Improved Player by Coach Don and entered a new season as Offensive Lineman #8 and Team Captain.  That year he suffered a torn hip flexor which caused him to sit out the remainder of the football season.  It was during this time his mother Carmen told him to focus on getting well and concentrate on Track & Field to ensure a scholarship offer.  He had already accomplished several wins but he wanted to excel so Curtis heeded the advice and decided that he would receive better training at Flagler Palm Coast High School, and decided to make the switch, January 2019.  


Curtis made incredible strides in spite of the sustained injuries, earning a silver medal in the Five Star Conference track and field championships while representing FPC, recording a personal-best triple jump of 12.93 meters. He also competed in the 200-, 300- and 400-meter dashes, according to Milesplit He had sheer determination as he had throughout his sports endeavors.

curtis-matanzas-youth-volunteer

Accredited for his congenial nature on and off the field, Curtis supported other athletes in their endeavors, often helping them with practices.  providing encouragement and assistance where needed.  

 

He didn’t just enjoy winning for himself, he was the consummate teammate, always enthusiastic about wins for every athlete whether it was on the Volleyball 

Team, Lacrosse Team, Basketball Team, or junior leagues like Mad Dog, where he assisted younger players.  Curtis partnered with another group of positive youth committed to helping athletes Rise to Greatness, a movement he promoted and believed in.  He would often encourage his fellow classmates to “Just Be Great”

Amazing things were happening for the rising student athlete who had come to make a difference in the lives of Flagler County’s youth.  

 

Curtis’ teammates and friends watched him pull himself out of the trauma of a split home, overcome gruesome injuries, change schools mid-stride to opt for a better academic and sports opportunity and began a peer-to-peer group chat to help other kids overcome challenges and grief.  

 

He was nominated for his role as a Champ making the difference in his community.

 

This nomination was weighed across 50 states among other athletes.

He was vetted by four Federal Bureaus using criterion to measure his contribution to the community; it was unanimously decided that he would be the recipient of the prestigious 2019 Prevention Champ Award for his role in positive mental health and substance abuse prevention.  Unfortunately the champ never received his plaque.  It was awarded to his mother on his behalf as was his graduation diploma. Four short months after Curtis’ commitment to Just Be Great, a slogan he was fondly known for, the story became tragic resulting in Curtis’ death due to a violent senseless shooting. On May 29th, 2019, a portion of an article recalling the events was printed in the first annual Long Live Curtis Track & Field Scholarship Banquet highlighting the following:


For the Fallen: FPC’s Track Team honors slain teammate Curtis Gray

Flagler Palm Coast's track team is dedicating this season in honor of fallen teammate Curtis Gray, who was murdered early the morning of Saturday, April 13, 2019. Carmen Gray didn’t know what to think when her 18-year-old son suddenly announced that he wanted to transfer to Flagler Palm Coast High School. It seemed odd, out of place. Curtis Gray, who was midway through his senior year, had been at rival Matanzas High School for 3 1/2 years, where he played football and ran track for the Pirates. But she decided to trust her son. She knew he didn’t come to this conclusion easily. Curtis wanted to improve his grades and rededicate himself to running track, and after much personal reflection, he transferred to FPC before the start of the 2019 spring semester in January in what was ultimately “the best decision for him,” his mother said. Curtis was already familiar with some of the Bulldogs’ track team members. He and sprinter Jacob Miley, who transferred from Matanzas before the start of the fall semester this school year, had been friends since seventh grade. They had the same friend group. They played pickup football and basketball together. They hung out at each other’s houses and spent summers together. And they grew closer when the two enrolled at Matanzas their freshman year. But still, Curtis was the new kid.

Most of the team barely knew him, only catching glimpses of his wide, bright smile and smooth dance moves over Snapchat or at previous football games or track meets.

The Bulldogs are memorializing this season in honor of Curtis. The athletes who qualify for the state meet will wear a special jersey with Curtis’ initials on the back. The Florida High School Athletic Association recently approved it for competition. The track program is also selling a T-shirt that has a silhouette of Curtis jumping with angel wings and a halo along with the hashtag #LongLiveCurt on the back.

 

The shirt, designed by Emily Ung, costs $20, and the profits will go to the creation of the Curtis Gray Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded to a senior on the track team at the program’s banquet after the season ends. “The kids and I wanted to be able to do something,” Halliday said. “We thought this would be more long lasting.” Now more than ever, the Bulldogs will be hunting for a state title.  “I can see the goal better,” Jacob Miley said.

 

Before, I was doing it for me. Now, I’m doing it for him, and I can’t let him down. This season has to be for him. He wouldn’t want us to be grieving. He’d want us to keep going.” 

To Order:

Contact FPCHS
Track & Field Dept.
Coach Halliday
(386) 437-7540

Carmen Gray feels like she’s in a bad movie. Like she’s waiting for the director to yell “Cut!” and for the scene to be over. She should have been helping her son pick out colleges. Instead, she was looking for a place to bury him. “Nothing can prepare you for this at all,” Carmen said. “There’s no words in the human language that can describe the pain associated with the loss of a child. It’s something you feel with every fiber of your being. There’s an immense sadness knowing that I’m not going to see him again.” 
The past few weeks have been the worst of Carmen Gray’s life. The thought of never seeing her only son again — his laugh, his white smile, his singing gospel and old 1950s tunes throughout the house, his spontaneous dancing — is almost too much to bear. But what has helped her through the pain has been the outpouring of love and support from the community. She was amazed at the number of lives Curtis touched during his 18 years on earth. “

 

Every parent hopes that they’re doing a good job in raising their children,” she said. “But every now and again, a parent will be so blessed to have a child who leaves a legacy behind. “I was already proud of him when he was alive. I’m extremely proud of him now.”