Like most things this year, sporting events look a lot different. The University of Arizona, like many schools are opting for cardboard cutouts instead of in-person fans to help slow the spread of COVID-19. But, for the family of Dan Wray, his cutout is about much more than the game.
“My dad has always been a big Arizona fan,” said Lindsay Wray, Dan’s daughter. “When we were way too little to even understand what football was, he taught us how to say bear down Arizona.”
Two years ago, Dan passed away just two weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. And, while his family wouldn’t be able to attend any of the games this season, they wanted him to.
“The cut out is so perfect because he would always complain about the Arizona heat and he’s obviously not hot right now,” said Lindsay.
Much like each person normally in attendance, Dan has a story. His road to Seat 26 was in no way easy.
“His early life was really, really tough,” said Lindsay.
Lindsay says before her dad moved out on his own at 16, he lived in the attic of a dirt floor home in Northern Idaho.
“They ate potatoes for three months straight because they didn’t have money for food,” said Lindsay. “I think my dad had three shirts and two pairs of pants that was all he had to his name.”
Like every good story, there was a moment everything changed for the better. Dan received a scholarship to study at the University of Arizona.
“Because of his degree and because of his education he was on a trajectory that was incredibly different than the one he would have been on otherwise,” said Lindsay.
He graduated in 1975. A few years after that, he took out a small business loan for $8,500. Today, that company sells over $40,000,000 in product annually, across the globe. But, Dan never forgot about his time in Tucson—he was a lifelong Wildcat fan.
“We knew Sundays were for watching football and Saturdays were for watching college football,” said Lindsay.
Football was a big part of Dan’s life.
“I would say that he liked football more than golf and you know, he loved golf,” said Lindsay.
Lindsay says her dad’s love of the game was deep. He always said the Wildcats never lost; they just came in second.
“He just loved football that much. He wanted to be a part of the game,” said Lindsay.
The game kept him connected to his Tucson roots.
“My dad was really friendly but in a way he was kind of shy, and I think in a way it gave him a lot to talk about,” said Lindsay.
This season, not many people can say this but, Dan is one of the few a part of the game.
“I think he would think its darkly hilarious, I mean who could have predicted this,” said Lindsay. “There’s a pandemic they canceled football, but they have a cardboard cutout of you in the stands.”
Dan’s come full circle. Over 45 years after graduating, he’s back. Back at the place his daughter credits with changing everything. Watching the game he loved, without the desert heat he hated.