By the weekend, linebacker Shane Ray will know whether he is sticking with the Baltimore Ravens or if he’ll get cut for the first time, which would cast a cloudy future on his up-and-down career.
Ray, a first-round pick of the Denver Broncos four years ago, is in what one coach described as a “dead heat” for one of the final roster spots. All signs point to Ray playing for his football life in Thursday’s preseason finale.
Survival, though, has always been a way of life for Ray. He grew up in an 8-square-mile part of Kansas City, Missouri, known as the Murder Factory.nike nfl jerseys for cheap
At age 12, Ray saw his first dead body. On his way to his grandmother’s house, he ran to the bottom of a hill where he saw a man who was facedown and not moving.
“I remember like it was yesterday,” Ray said. “I just looked at him. Nobody was around. That was more surreal; no one was around. I don’t hear any sirens. I remember looking at the guy’s head and seeing a gunshot wound.”
This was home to Ray, but it was an area to avoid for many others. According to the Kansas City Star, more than 100 convicted murderers incarcerated in Missouri prisons had lived in the ZIP code.
“It was just to another day,” Ray said. “You just move past it.“cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale
Football was a way to escape and a much-needed emotional outlet.
Ray’s mother pushed him toward football. She thought the coaches could just put Ray in the front and he didn’t have to run. All he had to do was smash people.
Ray wasn’t all-in. It didn’t matter. His mother forced him to play.
“You don’t have a choice,” she told him.
Ray’s surroundings still presented challenges. When Ray was at practice in eighth grade, a car pulled up and a kid walked up to the team. The coach told another player to give his shoulder pads to the team’s new playmaker.
“Our running back just got out of [juvenile detention],” Ray said. “But we won the championship.”
The bigger prize for Ray was getting a chance to attend private high school outside his neighborhood.
His mother worked three jobs so Ray could attend Bishop Miege High School, in Roeland Park, Kansas, which had annual tuition of $10,000. She worked in IT, painted houses and sold homemade cakes.