UNI Football and Ball Boy Mac Gray, an Inspiring Partnership
Mac Gray has been UNI Football's ball boy since January of 2021, when he came to Cedar Falls for his freshman year of college.
"This was always my role -- I've been a ball boy and student manager since my freshman year in high school," Gray said. "It was always something I wanted to carry on when I got to college. My options really came down to where I could fit in with football."
Though this was something he knew he wanted to do, the St. Paul, Minnesota native was nervous about leaving home and joining a team at a higher level than high school.
"I was scared when I got here, because I wasn't sure if the guys would have big egos. But when I got here, it was the complete opposite. ... (The football team) took me under their wing, and ever since, I honestly couldn't be more thankful. It's like having 105 body guards on campus. I feel like the little brother of this football team."
Having a familiar face in his corner helped Mac transition when he first arrived in the Cedar Valley.
Benny Sapp III, originally from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, had known Gray from their high school days. Sapp III currently plays safety for the Panthers.
"I was in a graphic design class when Benny committed to the University of Minnesota, and I was a huge fan boy," Gray laughed. "I actually made his commitment edit for him."
After making the decision to transfer and play for UNI, Sapp III and Gray arrived in the Cedar Valley at the same time.
Sapp III wasn't the only Minnesota connection Mac made, though. Jevon Brekke and Omar Brown are two other defensive backs on the Panther defense, and both are originally from Minneapolis.
Between the quartet of Minnesotans, there was a signature moment Gray will never forget, as he shared on Twitter:
Although already friends with the crew of defensive backs, it took him by surprise.
"In my head I never would have asked them to do this," Gray started. "They had just gotten done with practice, and it was 95 degrees outside. They just voluntarily stayed. ... I was confused at first. I told them they didn't have to do it, and they didn't say anything. They just started picking up the pads, and I wouldn't have been able to tell them anything else. ... I'll always remember that moment."
In becoming a signature part of UNI Football, Mac has encountered developed a platform and encountered a level of following he didn't have before, and he's decided to use it for the betterment of those who have a condition known as Hydrocephalus.
Some of the symptoms of the condition for children and adolescents include headaches, nausea and vomiting, blurred or double vision, slowing or loss of developmental progress, seizures, and poor appetite.
Growing up with the condition, these are symptoms Mac knows all too well.
As seen below, Gray was given the opportunity to partner with Revolution Sporting Goods, a company one of his dad's friend's owns -- and he decided to maintain the same unselfishness his teammates showed him.
"They offered to do some NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) with me," Gray said, referencing his merchandise deal. "I decided I didn't want that money to go into my pocket. I'm well today, I have a working shunt. I'm healthy. ... The money that I'm raising from my apparel is going to go to families with Hyrdocephalus that need the money to get whatever they need done for their kids. ... I know the feeling of what it's like to be there. I just wish no kid in this world would have to deal with that."
The shirts can be purchased HERE.
The interview with Mac: