Arizona Football

Heath Bray, 54, one of most passionate Arizona football players, passes away

Heath Bray, a linebacker, defensive back and even quarterback for Dick Tomey’s Arizona program in the early 1990s, has passed away reportedly from a heart attack. He was 54.

No former player for the Wildcats was as ardent about the program than Bray, who called archrival ASU’s colors “mustard and rust.”

Bray, nicknamed “Crash” during his Wildcat years, embodied the “Desert Swarm” spirit of which he played a part in 1992, highlighted by the victory over No. 1 Washington at Arizona Stadium.

He was one of the team captains as a senior in 1992, a season in which he blocked two kicks.

I was fortunate to interview Bray in recent years about the Wildcats amid coaching changes, the highs and lows, and developments with the football facilities.

Favorite game as a Wildcat?

“My favorite game has to be the Washington game in ’92. That was the best Arizona football. Beating number one (Washington) was epic and playing a nearly perfect game, with the fans in a frenzy, on National television, Keith Jackson. Wow, what a day.”

Favorite Wildcat other than yourself and why?

“My favorite Wildcat is very hard to answer. I was recruited by (Chuck) Cecil, became friends with the Hunley brothers (Ricky and Lamonte), the Wood brothers (Dave and Brent). Singleton twins (Chris and Kevin), Glenn Parker and John Fina. Tedy (Bruschi), (Rob) Waldrop, Jimmie Hopkins, Brandon Sanders, Brant Boyer. My favorite though is Ty Parten. Mean, tough, leader, and a solid dude.”

Favorite play in Arizona history?

“Everyone loves Cecil’s ASU (100-yard interception) return. (Chuck) Levy’s run in the Fiesta Bowl. But Darryll Lewis’ play against Oregon when he covered his guy in the corner and then stopped (Bill) Musgrave at the goal-line was epic.”

Favorite memory about your coach?

“Tomey was the best. Our commando raids during my senior year we would fly in late, not change our time, meet, eat, sleep, kick ass, then fly out in less than 24 hours. I always thought that was genius, and we all bought in to it.”

Bray joins those involved with the Arizona program when he played who passed before him, including Tomey, defensive tackles Jim Hoffman and Chuck Osborne, offensive tackles Warner SmithMu Tagoai and Pulu Poumele, wide receiver Troy Dickey, fullback Mike Streidnig and center Hicham El-Mashtoub.

When Tomey passed away at age 80 from lung cancer in 2019, longtime local scribe Anthony Gimino, who was the beat reporter of the Wildcats during the Desert Swarm era for the Arizona Daily Star, interviewed Bray about his late coach.

“I was taking to the guys, and the thing is, his legacy is us — the men we’ve become and the people we are going to influence in our lives,” Bray said. “That’s his legacy. And I guarantee you, that is what he absolutely wants.

“The last thing Dick Tomey would want us doing is sitting around wallowing in tears, sulking about his passing. Trust me. That’s the last thing that dude would want. He would be like, let’s hug each other, celebrate the good times. Celebrate what we have. Keep it going. Pass it on. I tell you, I love him for it. God, I love that man.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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