Being on the bubble has become a lifestyle, of sorts, for Tennessee Titans receiver Kalif Raymond. Waived 8 times by a total of 3 teams since joining the league, the Holy Cross product has had to learn to deal with rejection and constant change.
“It’s a challenge,” Raymond said, “but I chalk it all up as a learning experience. If you don’t fall down, you never know what getting up is like. As I’m going through this, I think I’m learning through reasons why I’m getting waived, some of the things I need to work on personally, and I think that’s helping me become an overall player.
“I’d say early on, it was tough. Especially in the beginning, not knowing how much of a mental game football is, especially the NFL. I did a lot of physical things, but I never worked on the mental side of my game.”
Now with the Titans, Raymond seems to have at least a fighting chance of making the final 53-man roster as the preseason approaches. The speedy and versatile receiver could challenge some of his teammates in the receivers room due to his ability to return both kickoffs and punts.
“I think it’s the reverse,” said Raymond, asked if he felt like the Titans are a good fit for him. “More or less, I want to be a good fit for Tennessee. Whatever they need me to do, I want to be able to come out here and do it. As long as I can fit into what they’re doing and the direction that they’re taking, I’m on board.
“Whether it’s at punt returner, gunner, receiver, whatever they ask me to do, I can do it and do it well.”
The #Titans practiced kickoff returns during an early period today. Darius Jennings, Kalif Raymond, Dion Lewis, Taywan Taylor, and Dalyn Dawkins shared reps as the returner.
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) August 1, 2019
Raymond grew up in Atlanta as a part of a big family. He has seven siblings, most of them younger. He loves when they are able to attend his games—something that should be much easier now that he’s playing just a few hours down the road—because it allows him to keep his mind “in one place.”
“With my family, everybody is family,” Raymond said. “With that being said, I’m going to try to spend my time wisely and see all my little brothers and sisters…I’m trying to do the best that I can of being a big brother. But I think one thing for my family, the best thing that I can also do, is to lead by example in what I’m doing.”
For college, Raymond attended the College of the Holy Cross, which has just over 3,000 students enrolled. There, he competed in football as well as in track and field.
“Like they say, you can’t teach speed, So with that being said, I always tell all my guys that if you have a chance to get out there and get faster, go ahead and do it. I think [track and field] definitely relates to the game because if you can run faster, you can play faster. I definitely try to correlate both, I get on the track so I can keep my speed up on the football field.”
Since graduating from Holy Cross, Raymond’s football career has been in a state of stop-and-go. The logistic and mental hurdles created by waking up every morning unsure of the future taught Raymond what it truly takes to make it in the NFL.
“It’s crazy that you mentioned anxiety, because that all goes back to working on the mental side of the game, and that’s huge. All the top guys—everybody in the NFL can ball, but it’s who can ball when the lights are on and I don’t think it’s a difference in talent, I think it’s a difference of who’s mentally prepared for it.
“I do a lot of meditation, a lot of breathing, staying in the present moment, doing what I can. Even when I come out here, I’m not at the next play, I’m only on this play, this down.”
#Titans young WR Kalif Raymond (14) continues to flash – with speed and making catches in team drills. It’s a crowded WR room
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) July 31, 2019
Those lessons are what Raymond feels will, if anything, allow him to stick when the Titans make their final cuts at the end of the preseason.
“Being mentally prepared, that’s more than just not feeding into anxiety and being in the moment, but also knowing what you’re supposed to do,” Raymond said. “I think that’s huge. If you can go in and they can plug you in anywhere and they’re not afraid to send you out there…I think that’s huge.”
Raymond has shined through the first week of Training Camp for the Titans, and his name even came up as head coach Mike Vrabel discussed potential options at punt returner.
All-Pro safety Kevin Byard even had complimentary words for Raymond. “He has speed, he’s a deep threat. During OTAs, I had a conversation with him in the sauna, like, ‘hey man, keep doing what you’re doing, give yourself every opportunity to make this team, because guys see that.’ Sometimes, if you don’t know what you’re doing, go fast. That’s something he’s good at and has an advantage for.”
The Titans will have to trim their roster from 90 to 53 players on August 31, per league rules. If Raymond keeps up the good work and stays mentally locked in, he could find himself on the right side of those decisions.
Cover image: Steve Roberts