Cards: Fleer 1995, Action Packed 1992, ProSet 1990
Acquired: Paid Signing 2014, c/o Texas Autograph Club
Sent: Received: 2/12
Mel Gray is an impossible respondent to get through the mail, so I jumped at the chance to get him through a paid signing on these 3 cards. He’s always remained near the top of my list to get TTM due to his lack of respect from HoF voters. Gray along with guys like Eric Metcalf are truly electric players who ground up yardage as dangerous return specialists, daring other teams to punt and kick away from them or converted the critical 3rd down motioning out of the backfield and catching a short pass, dodging a few would be tacklers, and turning it into a 12 yard gain.
I most remember Mel Gray from his days on the Detroit Lions, the twilight days of the Houston Oilers, and as a multifaceted talent on Tecmo Super Bowl. The game really nailed him, allowing you to shift Gray from wide receiver to runningback without blinking an eye.
Mel’s playing days started at Purdue where he was a star at runningback and wide receiver for the Boilermakers. He’d earn Big 10 honors and several All-American Honors during his time there as their featured back. Mel made the transition to the USFL in 1984 for the LA Express, and then was later traded to the Oklahoma Outlaws. After the league folded, Mel Gray was selected in the NFL Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL players. Selected by the New Orleans Saints, Mel burst on to the scene with a 27.9 kick off return average and a 101 yard TD against the 49ers in his second game in 1986. Gray led the league with a 14.7 yard punt return average in 1987, and scored on his first TD on a punt return the following year. He hopped Plan B to Detroit in 1989.
Gray earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 1990 and 1991 as he led the league in multiple categories. He’d return to the Pro Bowl in 1992, and earn AP and Pro Bowl honors a last time in 1994. His 1994 season was one of the best in NFL history, as Gray returned 45 kicks for 1276 yards (28.4 average) and 3 touchdowns. In 1995, Mel cashed in and signed as a free agent with the Houston Oilers, a move at the time I lauded, but really didn’t pan out. The Oilers hadn’t really had a marquee name work out as a returner in quite some time, and at the age of 34, I’m not sure really what the Oilers envisioned for Mel to do, in retrospect other than return kicks. In 1997 Gray made the transition to Tennessee with the team, but was cut midway through the season saving the team $200k. He finished the year with the Eagles, and retired. At the time Mel had the most career yards kick returning in NFL history, tied for the lead for career TDs on kick returns – since surpassed. Still Mel clings on to his record for being the oldest player to score a KR TD in NFL history (33). As a pure specialist, Mel may never get his due from the Pro Football HoF, but he still ranks among the most memorable players ever to return the rock.
G/Gs 169/2 Rush 19 Yds 99 Avg 5.2 Td 1 Lg 14
Rec 13 Yds 164 Avg 12.6 Td 0 Lg 38
KR 421 Yds 10250 Avg 24.3 Td 6 Lg 102t
PR 252 Yds 2753 Avg 10.9 Td 3 Lg 80