CEDAR RAPIDS — June 7 was a heck of day for Bryan Pray.
First, the former Cedar Rapids Titans wide receiver found out that he and his wife of nearly seven years, Terri, are expecting their first child, a boy. Later that afternoon, Pray received a call from Indoor Football League Commissioner Michael Allshouse informing him that he was being inducted into the IFL Hall of Fame.
“I want to thank my teammates,” Pray told The Gazette. “When we first got there, no one was thinking Hall of Fame for any of us. We just wanted to beat Sioux Falls. Beat Sioux Falls and win a championship. Over time, all the big plays and the numbers and all that accumulated, but none of that would be possible without my teammates and those fans. They made it tough to play in Cedar Rapids.”
Pray was a fan favorite during his three seasons in Cedar Rapids (2013-15), a period in which he totaled 2,052 receiving yards and 40 touchdowns alongside the late Carl Sims. In three seasons with Pray, the Titans won 29 games and reached the conference championship game in all three seasons.
“Amazing,” Pray said. “It was like a turning point in my career.”
Pray is the second Titans player to enter the IFL Hall of Fame, joining former running back LaRon Council (2013-14), a teammate of Pray’s with the 2012 Green Bay Blizzard who made the jump to Cedar Rapids the following season.
“When we were in Green Bay, we played a game down in Cedar Rapids and the environment was crazy,” Pray said. “We were at the (Cedar Rapids) Ice Arena and the whole bowl was full, the fans were crazy. Every time Cedar Rapids made a play you couldn’t hear anything. That offseason, we were like, ‘Yo, we have got to get there. We have got to find out how to get down there.'”
Pray concluded an eight-year IFL career in 2017 with the Spokane Empire, which coincided with the start of a three-year slide for the Cedar Rapids franchise. The Titans won just four games total in the 2017 and 2018 seasons before being rebranded as the Cedar Rapids River Kings and rehiring Coach Mark Stoute, who coached the Titans from 2013-16.
Entering Saturday night’s season finale, the River Kings had won just one game in Stoute’s return.
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“I love Coach Stoute,” Pray said. “Me and him, we bumped heads but I love him. …. The veteran guys around the league and the tenured guys, they don’t want to be a part of that. They want to be seen. They want to be marketed and they weren’t marketing those players there so that is why I feel like Coach Stoute is having a hard time getting some athletes there. He is essentially playing with rookies and in this league, this is a vet-driven league. Even with the vet rule they have, it is still vet-driven. You have got to have experience and they have none and it is showing. That is tough because now the people associate Cedar Rapids as a bottom of the barrel team and that just wasn’t the case three or four years ago. It is tough seeing that.”
Pray remains the all-time IFL leader in receiving yards (5,613), while his career receptions (407) and touchdowns (118) rank second in league history. During his time in Cedar Rapids, Pray pursued a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wis. Today, he is a police officer and crisis intervention officer with the Sheboygan (Wis.) Police Department.
“That has been a great experience,” Pray said. “In Cedar Rapids, I did a lot of community events. I was out at the schools, I was out at the taverns, out at the local charity events. That helped me transition to being able to speak with anybody from all different backgrounds in the streets as a police officer.”
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