By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
He was a starter on one of the most successful Fort Hays State University football teams since the Tigers moved to NCAA Division II from the NAIA in the early 1990s.
But the trophies and plaques hanging and sitting around Roy Spray's home in Hays have nothing to do with football and Spray's days as an offensive tackle. Instead, they are all from barbecuing contests.
Spray, a native of Georgia who grew up with Southern cooking, now is married with a family and enjoys tackling some of his favorite recipes and getting his entire family involved in his passion.
On Saturday, he got a taste of what it's like for people watching the Tigers play football while participating in the Tailgreat tailgating party outside Lewis Field Stadium.
Spray and the rest of his neighbors on the 1300 block of 43rd Street in northwest Hays decided to have their annual neighborhood block party this year at Tailgreat.
It turned out to be a great idea as Spray won second-place overall honors in the barbecue contest.
Meanwhile, family, friends and neighbors got the chance to taste test Spray's honey soy Asian ribs, orange glazed chicken wings, maple glazed ribs, brisket sliders and catfish shrimp poor boy sandwiches with spicy cole slaw inside.
"Oohs" and "ahs" were the comments of the hour as people young and old savored several selections.
Even with Roy's tasty entrees, neighbors on the block decided they should have hamburgers and hot dogs for the children.
Kiley Dinkel, a 2012 graduate of Hays High School and a freshman at Fort Hays, is the oldest "kid" on the block. The youngest are 8-month-twin sisters Jenna and Kaylee Dague. And there are 30 more children of all ages in between.
But there were a lot of burgers and hot dogs left.
"The kids all were trying the barbecue things, too," said Spray, who started participating in barbecue contests after attending one with some friends in Lawrence a few years ago.
"I thought, 'I can do this,' " he said.
The next year for Father's Day, his wife, Nicole, bought Roy a smoker. And the entire family has gotten involved since.
Ten-year-old Haleigh has won prizes in children's contests where her dad is participating, as have her two younger brothers, Carson, 8, and Emery, 4.
The Sprays have participated in numerous contests throughout the state.
"We choose the contests that are family friendly," Nicole said.
More often than not, they bring home several awards.
"It's another way of teaching the kids that you win some, you lose some," Nicole said.
Best of all though, Roy said, is experiencing "the camaraderie."
"You get to cook superb food and hang out with friends and hang out with family," he added.
And afterwards, you get to enjoy leftovers, right?
"No," Roy and Nicole echoed without any hesitation.
"When we come home from one of these," Roy said, "we want Taco Shop and ice cream."