‘Humbled’ Shane Ray hopes to finish four-year NFL comeback with Payments
Alaina Getzenberg, ESPNJun 2, 2023, 06:00 AM ET
The pass-rusher, drafted No. 23 general out of Missouri in 2015, had a promising begin within the NFL. He was a part of the Broncos staff that gained Tremendous Bowl 50, and he had his most efficient season in 12 months 2, with 8.0 sacks and 21 quarterback hits. However he suffered a left wrist harm throughout coaching camp in 2017 that led to 4 surgical procedures and helped derail his profession. Ray performed 19 video games with the Broncos over his remaining two seasons, however they didn’t re-sign him on the finish of his rookie deal.
“Mentally, bodily not feeling like me. Feeling crushed up, feeling torn down by media, feeling, you realize, simply all the pieces,” Ray mentioned. “I felt like I wasn’t me anymore, and I had no worth … and those who I believed had been gonna assist me by the method ended up fading away and now it is solely me and my mother, and the opposite shut folks to me, believing in me.”
Whereas his profession turned untracked, Ray struggled with stress and nervous breakdowns together with his mood getting “uncontrolled,” as he described it. He needed to be taught, with the assistance of counseling, to not fear about what others considered him or their expectations.
Ray signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2019 however was lower earlier than coaching camp.
“I do not assume I confirmed up how I ought to have confirmed as much as the Ravens, truthfully,” Ray mentioned. “I used to be nonetheless coping with my harm.”
He had 10 tryouts with different groups through the 2019 season, however none labored out.
“I feel he was indignant. He was indignant a few scenario. It confirmed up in his exercise,” his agent, Joby Branion, mentioned after speaking to groups that labored out Ray. “It confirmed up in form of the best way he carried himself. When anyone requested something about particular groups, it pissed him off.”
His profession hit a low level in 2020, with no staff exercises. He then spent two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, rediscovering his love of soccer alongside the best way. Regardless of not getting an NFL alternative for 4 years, Ray says he had religion his greatest soccer was nonetheless in entrance of him.
“I needed to humble myself — extra humbled than I might ever been earlier than. From going to Canada and shopping for in, you realize — I can’t act like there was days that I didn’t stroll in and I used to be like, ‘Bro, that is the place I’m? Like, I’m not speculated to be right here,’” Ray mentioned. “However that’s the place I used to be and I needed to grind by it.”
Now, after a superb efficiency on the Buffalo Bills rookie minicamp, the 30-year-old Ray has signed once more with an NFL staff, with an enormous alternative in hand.
“I at all times inform [Ray], ‘The universe rewards grace. You recognize, no matter playing cards you dealt, you simply play them to one of the best of your capability, man,'” teammate Von Miller, who was additionally with Ray in Denver, mentioned. “… I’ve undoubtedly seen him at his lowest. And I’ve seen him at his highest, too. And I consistently remind him of who he’s and who he could be.”
TAYLOR SCOTT CAN’T recall a time when he needed to push Ray throughout a exercise or inform him to work more durable. Not giving up has been a key a part of getting Ray one other probability.
However Scott, the founder and head coach of The Trench Academy in Tampa, Florida, does recall a time earlier than a exercise this offseason — he is achieved three-a-day exercises with Ray daily for greater than 4 months this 12 months — when Scott might inform that Ray’s lack of NFL curiosity was attending to him. Ray questioned whether or not he ought to return to the CFL, what he ought to do subsequent. Scott requested if he needed to make that call within the subsequent hour.
Ray advised him, “No.”
“Let’s not fear about something that is not taking place within the subsequent hour,” Scott mentioned. “All we will management is that this set. So, let’s do that set.”
Ray by no means give up. Through the 2020 and 2021 offseasons, he educated with Miller in San Francisco and went all-in on understanding with eye towards one other probability.
“In 2020 when COVID hit, we actually labored each single day,” Miller mentioned. “Two exercises a day, we had the chef, we did all the pieces in our energy to achieve success. Like we grinded collectively each single day. We went and acquired tattoos collectively.”
Ray started engaged on different issues alongside the best way — attempting to maintain up with the NFL schedule and coaching like a full-time participant with out the NFL paycheck isn’t any simple feat. The time away from league allowed him to start out digging into what he appreciated doing off the sector, whereas additionally engaged on ending his diploma. Writing is among the actions he enjoys, so he considered arising with a film script and stepping into the movie trade. He additionally writes music and has been working together with his mother, Sebrina Johnson, on actual property and has thought-about opening a restaurant.
“He would work so onerous and spend a lot cash coaching and preserving his physique wholesome and doing all of the issues that he wanted to do exactly to be prepared simply in case,” Johnson mentioned. “So, that’s what I am happy with. I’m happy with his tenacity.”
He attended a HUB exercise, a camp designed to assist free brokers discover a staff, with NFL and CFL scouts current. The Argonauts expressed an curiosity and Branion needed to have a troublesome, however sincere dialog with Ray about humbling himself by exhibiting how hungry he was and placing his skills on tape.
“They supplied me the chance to come back as much as Toronto and I jumped at it as a result of I used to be like, I can not sit at house one other 12 months and never play soccer,” Ray mentioned.
Ray performed in 5 video games in 2021 because of a finger harm. He had a tryout with the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in between the seasons, however they weren’t able to decide earlier than he needed to resolve on his choice with the CFL. In 2022, he performed 13 video games, recorded six sacks and Toronto gained the Gray Cup. His season ended early because of a biceps tear which required surgical procedure, however he left a constructive impression on tape and within the Argonauts’ constructing as a frontrunner.
“He acquired that love of the sport again,” Argonauts coach Ryan Dinwiddie advised ESPN. “Once you’re out of it for a bit and simply sort of go in a little bit rut, and you’ll see when he acquired out in grass, it was like, ‘OK, that is enjoyable once more.’ So, you may simply see the vitality that he introduced every day.”
Dinwiddie mentioned it was about midseason when he seen Ray take the subsequent step as a pass-rusher and look extra snug.
Ray began working with Scott across the finish of 2022, “to problem myself and push myself, like, to the furthest I ever pushed myself to get the outcomes that I needed.” They might go from velocity exercises to agility exercises to lifting periods after which later he would return to do defensive position work. He even took on a management position within the gymnasium, talking to a bunch of youthful athletes about his journey.
Branion, who additionally represents Miller, advised Ray a number of NFL groups had been in contact. Ray attended Missouri’s professional day to place himself on the market and have scouts write him up of their reviews. Branion talked to a number of groups on the NFL mix about Ray, together with Payments common supervisor Brandon Beane. Beane requested if Ray can be fascinated with attending the staff’s rookie minicamp.
Branion believed the chance may very well be higher than a exercise, as it will permit him to be across the coaches and workers. Ray went to camp with a constructive mindset earlier than different exercises scheduled down the highway.
The efforts paid off, and the Payments signed him.
MILLER HAS NO downside giving Beane suggestions for gamers to signal. He publicly advocated for vast receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins. However the case with Ray was totally different. Miller didn’t say a phrase to their agent or Beane.
“I discuss to Beane about loads of stuff, man. I discuss to him about gamers and this and that, however I didn’t discuss to him about Shane particularly,” mentioned Miller, who discovered in regards to the signing by Branion. “I needed that to be pure. I did not need it to be like, ‘That is Von’s man.’ The whole lot that Shane acquired, it has been all off of Shane.”
Ray held his feelings in examine when he discovered he was being signed, however he cried when he returned to his lodge room and known as his mother. She screamed at first and advised him she knew he might do it. Then they each cried extra and sat in silence for minutes.
“It is saving his life. I simply, I do not know what might’ve occurred if the chance did not come however giving him a like actual alternative saved his life,” Johnson mentioned. “As a result of even when issues do not occur the best way we anticipate it to, he did come again from the place he was, from the depths of hell. … He got here again and he did do it, as a result of nobody, I imply, completely nobody believed he would come again.”
Ray mentioned he walks into the power daily with the mentality he’s going to be there however is extra appreciative of the little issues. He faces a battle to make a aggressive Payments roster, however he’s working to capitalize on his first NFL alternative in years. That features working with senior defensive assistant/defensive position coach Eric Washington to be taught the playbook, but additionally spending time on the particular groups aspect with coordinator Matthew Smiley.
“Simply loads of respect for a way he got here to us,” Washington mentioned. “Once you go from [Super Bowl 50] to being out of the league and attempting to struggle and claw and scratch your means again in and to come back out in a rookie tryout scenario and should discover a solution to get the eye of the workers and encourage folks sufficient of what you do to get signed, I simply have loads of respect for that.”