Bray, whose 11-year-old brother Jymere lives with their grandmother in Georgia, said football and teammates helped him cope during that time.
Fellow receiver Trovon Reed's mother had passed away a few months earlier, so he has someone handy who understands the loss.
"When we're in a grind and we don't want to do this, he's just like, 'Look up, man. Just look up. We've got something to do this for,'" Bray said.
Football and working out were an escape from the pain back then. Now, he's motivated to do well for Jymere and his mother, who was a constant presence at his basketball and football games.
"When my mom passed, it was really tragic, but God always does things for a reason," Bray said. "For that to happen to me, it was a blessing in a way. It got my mind right. I had to grow up faster than I expected to."
Teammate Nosa Eguae said he's impressed by Bray's demeanor and work ethic, and his frequent presence in the gym this summer.
"From what he's been through, I couldn't even fathom," the defensive end said. "To see him every single day, come out with a smile on his face ... Every time I see him, I say, 'What's good? How you doing?' He's always positive, he's always full of laughter and he's always working.
"Every time I'm here working this summer, I've seen Quan Bray here working. That's just a testament to him. That's a testament to his family. I know he's been through a lot but he doesn't let it get him down. He's always positive. He's always trying to make sure he's doing the best not just for him but for his family and this football team."