When Torrian Gray left Virginia Tech to become the defensive backs coach for the Florida Gators he was making a decision to leave home. Gray played at Virginia Tech from 1992-1996, earning All-Big East three times and the Hokies won two Big East championships while Gray shined at defensive back.
Gray was drafted and played two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL before beginning his coaching career. He coached defensive backs at Maine (2000-01), Connecticut (2002-03) and with the Chicago Bears (2004-05) before returning to his alma mater.
The coach who had held three different jobs in three years then spent the next decade in Blacksburg coaching Virginia Tech’s defensive backs.
“I always felt at Virginia Tech I had a great job as the defensive back coach. I loved working for coach Beamer and coach Foster,” Gray said. “I always said, would I just leave Virginia Tech unless I had an opportunity to advance and just to be the defensive back coach somewhere else?”
When Frank Beamer announced his retirement and Memphis’ Justin Fuente was hired to lead the program Gray was retained on staff. He made it through National Signing Day before leaving what seemed to be a dream job for the opportunity at Florida. It probably doesn’t hurt that Gray is from Lakeland, just a short drive from his new home in Gainesville, and still has family in the area.
“I have my mother, I’ve got three brothers and three sisters — seven. It’s pretty neat to be able to be two-and-a-half hours away,” he said. “We’ve got a 10-month-old my mom has not been around a lot, or my brothers and sisters. So, they’ll get to see her a lot more. They’re excited about that.”
Gray has a long track record of success with his defensive backs at Virginia Tech. He coached first round pick Kyle Fuller, second round pick Brandon Flowers, third round pick Jayron Hosley and Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor. In SEC country, the debate about which team produced the most talented defensive backs raged on between LSU and Florida, with Virginia Tech not even being thought of as a runner up to most fans.
“I think you got three or four schools that call themselves DBU, maybe more,” said Gray. “Virginia Tech was one of the schools that called themselves DBU, Florida calls themselves DBU, LSU, I hear Texas. I guess it’s whatever you think. We think we’re DBU hear at the University of Florida and we’re going to roll with that.”
Gray spent his playing days in the Big East and most of his coaching career in the ACC. He’s familiar with the power of the SEC logo; he’s run up against it on the recruiting trail in Georgia and down in Florida when he was at Va. Tech.
“I believe to kids, the University of Florida and being in the SEC, I think that brings a certain reputation with it alone,” he said. “So having the Gator logo alone helps from that standpoint, a recruiting standpoint. Being in the SEC helps from a recruiting standpoint, so I’m excited about that.”
He’s been a hit on the early recruiting trail and had a lot of success recruiting at Virginia Tech as well. After a decade of going toe-to-toe against coaches who had the “SEC chip” at their disposal, Gray will finally see what life is like recruiting on the other side where he can tout that as well.
It’ll be fun to see if that works in our favor now.”