— AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Quan Bray wears his heart under his sleeve.
The Auburn receiver's upper right arm is covered with a tattoo of his mother's face above the message "R.I.P. Tonya."
"I always wake up in the morning and that's the first thing I see," Bray said.
His father, Jeffery Jones, shot and killed Tonya Bray on July 3, 2011, and is serving a life sentence.
It was a devastating blow to Bray and his family just as the highly touted recruit was set to begin his career at Auburn.
But the often-smiling Bray has overcome that tragedy and is hoping to finally have a breakout season for the Tigers, who must replace leading receiver Emory Blake.
Bray had seldom spoke about his mother's killing publicly before politely fielding questions for a few minutes on the matter Thursday on the eve of camp's opening practice.
LaGrange, Ga., police say Tonya Bray was found dead in her car and that Jones turned himself in not long after. He pleaded guilty in June 2012.
Bray's uncle and high school coach, Charles Flowers, said Jones and Tonya Bray were together for a long time but never married and had broken up a couple of years before the shooting.
Flowers said he doubts Bray has visited his father since then and said the two didn't have a good relationship, describing Jones as possessive, mean and "lowdown."
The receiver's sunny disposition — the old Quan — didn't return immediately, and the scars no doubt remain if not as visible as his mother's smiling face to those around him.
"You'll never really forget a devastating situation like that, but I think he's using it as an incentive," said Flowers, a former coach at Troup County High School in LaGrange. "He seems to be back to his cordial, jolly, get after it, always enthusiastic, always smiling self. He's getting back to his old self."