|Arthur Ray at Northwestern Pro Day. (Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune)|
In 2007, Ray had committed to play at Michigan State as a 17 year old senior. The very next week he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer), in his left leg. Doctors feared he would not be able to walk again, and that football would never be in his future. In the following two years he underwent nine surgeries on his leg, was forced to have a cement spacer in place for his tibia for eight months after a bone infection, and then spent the following 25 months on crutches.
He would not give in. After being inactive for 2009 and 2010, he was able to finally participate at Michigan State in 2011 after being medically cleared. Ray played in three games that year. At year's end, he was awarded the Discover Orange Bowl/Football Writers Association Courage Award. The following season, Ray decided to medically disqualify himself in order to finish his degree in Communications.
Still wanting to play, Ray followed some of his teammates to Fort Lewis, where the man who recruited him at Michigan State, John Smith, was hired shortly after to be their head coach. Division II rules on eligibility are unique, and thanks to this it allowed Ray to play an additional two years for the Skyhawks, where he served as their starting left tackle and team captain.
Now Arthur Ray is looking to start his NFL career, hopefully with a team adding him on draft day.
Here Arthur Ray talks about his training, alongside Ali Marpet:
33 1/4" arms
Pro Day Numbers:
26 Reps of 225
117" Broad Jump
4.95 20 Yard Shuttle
Here is Arthur Ray's Pro Day at Northwestern:
Keeps a solid base. Feet take short, choppy steps that keep him grounded. Quick, powerful punch. Has experience playing all line positions. Consistently finishes his blocks. Enough functional quickness to use on pulls.
Can drop head while blocking. Occasionally gets too high with his blocks, loses leverage.
Here are Arthur Ray's highlights from last season at Fort Lewis:
Arthur was kind enough to answer questions for me in a brief interview:
Q) What has been your experience like with the transition from DI to DII to training to become an NFL player?
A) "Was definitely a transition Durango, Co was unlike any other place I ever been. I welcomed the challenge though, and I was blessed to have one of my best friends Jordan Benton who I met at Michigan State down there at Fort Lewis already. Football was the same but the elements were different but I never let any of that bother me, because all I wanted was an opportunity. I would have played in a back alley, street, sand, anywhere because I love the game so much and I worked so hard to get back in shape to play. But overall the transition has been great after everything I been through. I had two great seasons at Fort Lewis and my time at Michigan State helped me get to an elite mental level to play this game and looking forward to the challenge of the next level."
Q) With your size and experience, do you think you could play any of the three interior offensive line positions? Which are you most comfortable playing?
A) "I believe I possess the ability to play all three interior positions and if I had my choice I would love to play the center position. I played guard/center predominantly during my time at MSU, and played both tackle spots at Fort Lewis. The reason I played tackle at Fort Lewis was because I wanted to display my athleticism and health to anyone who thought maybe I couldn't move fluidly or something."
Q) Which NFL head coach/offensive coordinator would you want to learn from/play under?
A) "I haven't really given it much thought, just because I would so grateful to be coached by any coach in the NFL. John Fox being brought in by the Chicago Bears, his offensive scheme was fun to watch as a fan of the game the past few years, but honestly I would love to be coached up and play under any offensive coordinator. With my background in both pro-style and pistol offenses I feel that I am very versatile and able to learn and thrive in any scheme."
Q) What teams have you talked to or worked out for over the draft process?
A) "After Pro Day I talked to the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers scouts and they both told me how they really liked me and my effort at the workout. I recently, about a week ago, had a pre-draft workout for the home team Chicago Bears which I was more than excited for. Agent told me he has been in contact with several teams so I am just excited and looking forward to my opportunity."
Q) At the Northwestern Pro Day you put up NFL caliber numbers, does that make you feel confident that you could play at that next level?
A) "My performance at Northwestern's Pro Day really made me confident that all the hard work I have been putting in was paying off. I was blessed with an opportunity to train in Atlanta with the great training guru Chip Smith. Coach Smith had me more than ready physically and mentally for my pro day. After the day ended I was so thankful to hear great feedback from the scouts, and hearing from my agent that teams thought I looked really well. It was confirmation from God that I am definitely on the right path."
Q) What NFL Pro would you compare yourself to? What makes you similar?
A) "Right now I would compare myself to Maurkice Pouncey, because of the way he plays. He possesses that combination of quickness, aggressiveness, and size that allows him to be one of the best centers in the NFL. I like the way he plays with a chip on his shoulder, just as I do and I think we share a lot of similarities athletically, other than him being about an inch taller."
Q) What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
A) "Aggression, I play with a lot of anger as a player because of everything that I have been through. My hands, footwork, knowledge, and my ability to prepare I feel are all strengths to my GAME. I have played all 5 spots on the line so my versatility is a big plus. Weaknesses- I feel I can improve overall on my technique always, and just the little things and not being over-aggressive."
Q) Patriots OL Marcus Cannon is another cancer survivor, have you talked to him about the process of overcoming that?
A) "No I did not know about that, but I would love to get in contact with him. I am sure he can help me out a lot."
Q) After overcoming such obstacles as you have, does making it to the NFL mean you have achieved your goal? Is there more you want to accomplish, possibly after football?
A) "Making to the NFL would definitely mean I have achieved a childhood dream, but I want to stay. Everyone counted me out and even more now. No one thinks I have a chance and many just see me as a "tryout" guy. I don't focus on the expectations other people have for me. I have a strong faith and support system, and I have worked very hard to be in this position. My goal is to make a team and begin my career in the NFL. Far as off the field, I want to inspire and help anyone I can. I have already been doing motivational speaking and I am sure I will continue. Also after my playing days are over I would love to work for an NFL team as a scout or something of that nature, on my road to become an NFL General Manager. The game has meant so much to me and I would love to work on the highest level."
"In 2007 when my head was bald and the chemo was wearing at my body, I knew I would once be able to play football again. No one believed in me, but no one had to but me. Thats how I live life and that is how I will continue as long as I am on this earth. I challenge everyone to see their dreams and when you are going through tough times "SEE THE INVISIBLE!". Let me be the example only person who needs to believe in you, is YOU! God Bless!"
You can follow Arthur Ray Jr. on Twitter at @ARayOfHope73
Follow me on Twitter - @PatriotsInform
For more of my articles, click here.