NFL fans are never surprised when they learn the rookie tearing up their favorite team’s training camp is a product of one of the juggernauts of college football – your Alabamas’ and Ohio States’ of the world. They are often the safest bets for coaches and general managers because their talent is no mystery, the whole world already knows how good they are. Even if they never reach the Hall of Fame, they also rarely cost anyone their job when they fail to pan out.
But there is something special about the outliers. There is something about those players that no one has heard of, something about an underdog. These players have spent their entire athletic careers dreaming of the chance to play under the bright lights of the NFL. They try to wow the world with every touch of the ball because they never know when the scouts will be watching, if at all.
Once NFL hopefuls from small no-name colleges themselves, versatile athletes like Darren Sproles (Kent State), Danny Woodhead (Chadron State), and Joshua Cribbs (Kent State) did not waste their respective opportunities. These players give hope and purpose to so many young men who maybe didn’t get that big time offer from USC, but know they have what it takes to play on Sundays and never let their dreams die.
This year, the Denver Broncos think they have found their diamond in the rough in Wide Receiver/Return Specialist Kalif Raymond. A standout 2-sport athlete (Football & Track) from the Patriot League’s College of the Holy Cross, Raymond possesses the balance of speed and quickness that NFL scouts drool over, recording a 4.34 40 yard dash time at Harvard’s pro day.
“I think that got everybody hyped up a bit,” said the ecstatic Raymond, “because when it came time to run my routes, scouts were paying attention to me to see if it translated from the 40 to the routes.”
His blazing speed is not anything new, as he holds school records in both the 60 (6.95) and 100 (10.71) meter dashes for the Holy Cross Track & Field program. Despite everyone who has seen Kalif run knowing that he was special, it took him a little longer for it to sink in. He told Jennifer Tolland of the Worcester Telegram
“I was never really a guy who was going to go out there and run a blazing time. I was in the top tier, but I was never really ‘the fast guy.’ Sophomore year here, I put on 15 pounds of muscle, so from a strength standpoint, doing track and working on my form, I continuously trained to become a fast guy. I came back (that year) and was running by everyone. I think my body matured a little bit and everything trickled down from there.”
Behind Kalif on his journey from an underrated free agent to Denver Broncos Training Camp are his fellow Crusaders. While he may not be receiving the type of stardom that players at the college football powerhouses have, Kalif has something truly special in the tight-knit community of students, faculty, and alumni that have supported him through thick and thin.
After winning the Crusader of the Year Award that recognizes the best athlete in the Holy Cross Community, Raymond talked about Holy Cross’ decision to recruit him despite a very serious injury saying in a student Q&A
“It meant a lot. I am glad. What happened in that injury was a blessing in disguise. I would’ve never come to a school like this. Mostly because of the opportunity outside of football, meeting the people I got to meet, being engulfed in the community that I am, there are so many good people. So the fact that they allowed me the opportunity to experience such a great institution meant a lot to me, especially with someone my size, for them to see a spark that other teams didn’t take a chance on. I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t be signing with the Broncos. There are so many things that followed them giving me the opportunity, so I’m very grateful for it.”
Raymond is currently duking it out with fellow rookie and Oregon standout returner Bralon Addison in Broncos Camp. Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis sung Raymond’s praises, telling the media “He’s a smaller guy, but he’s got great speed, and we think he’s got a chance to compete in there.” That great speed that the coaching staff has talked so much about during camp would have placed him 4th at the NFL Combine – had he been invited of course.
With his sights set on making the Denver Broncos opening day roster, Kalif Raymond is determined to do his fellow Crusaders proud and do what he does best – run fast.
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