Passion for the game

Trucker’s lifelong dream to create a football board game becomes reality.

November 2020

Greg Grisolano

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Hunter S. Thompson once described former President Richard Nixon as a “stone fanatic” when it came to football. The same could be said about Michael Wray Jr.

Spend a few minutes talking to the OOIDA member and owner-operator from Raymondville, Mo., and he’ll tell you about his passion for football. His love for the gridiron inspired him to create his own board game, “You’re The Coach.”

“If you’ve ever played or coached, you’ll feel like you’re back on the field,” he said.

Wray said he first came up with the idea in 1982 while watching “Monday Night Football,” playing with dice, and working on a writing project for school.

“I’ve put 34,000 hours into this, and 38 years,” he said. “I get a big kick out of sitting down with people and playing the game with them.”

The game can be played with anywhere from one to 20 players. Players call plays from play sheets for offense and defense. A roll of the dice determines the player’s ability to successfully execute the plays. Wray says weather, fatigue and other factors can be incorporated into gameplay, mimicking the feel of a real football game.

From the Navy to trucking

Wray played football in high school and then spent 16 years in the Navy. While there, he served aboard the USS Nassau. Even at sea, he took a prototype of his football game with him and played against his fellow sailors. After he left the Navy, he settled on a career in trucking as a means of seeing the country and promoting his game.

His trucking company, You’re The Coach Transport, features the name of his game stenciled on his trailer. He says he’s planning to wrap the trailer soon with more images of the game.

Wray says his big break came last year, when he connected with an artist in Missouri who helped him illustrate his game the way he wanted. After that, he found another Missouri company that was willing to produce 500 copies of his game, which is available on eBay.

In the coming months, Wray says he hopes that Amazon will begin offering his game for sale, and he is working on becoming a vendor for Walmart and other large retailers.

The Walmart connection is especially poignant for Wray, who says when he’s delivered to distribution centers for large retailers that he’s used the opportunity to promote his life’s work.

“I told a guy, ‘One of these days, I’m going to come in here, delivering games to your Walmart (distribution center). You watch,’” he said. “Well, I’m this close right now. …  It’s awesome. It really is.” LL

Greg Grisolano

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.