Growing up in the heart of Kansas City, Shane Ray admits he grew up a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan, and often he dreamed of playing for the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in front of a hometown crowd.
Part of Ray’s dream did come true. Once a year, Ray has the opportunity to play at Arrowhead Stadium, just not as a member of the Chiefs. Rather, the Kansas City native and former Mizzou standout plays for the rival Denver Broncos.
“Growing up as a kid, I would go to all the football games at Arrowhead Stadium, so to be able to come back and play in Arrowhead Stadium — against the Chiefs — it’s amazing,” Ray said. “It’s a blast for me.”
The rivalry between the Broncos and the Chiefs intensified this offseason when Jamaal Charles opted to sign with Denver after being released by Kansas City.
Ray recounted a story, which he refers to as his “welcome-to-the-league moment,” where Charles burned him for a 40-yard run at Arrowhead.
“I consider Jamaal a top-two running back all-time for the Chiefs, so it’s really fun to have him there,” Ray said. “To have him on my team now, knowing what his capabilities are and to see just how excited he is, I am so excited for him, as a player, to enjoy this new opportunity as a Bronco.”
Ray, 24 and entering his third year in the NFL, returned to his alma mater, Bishop Miege High School in Kansas City, on Saturday morning with Rays Awareness Foundation for the First Annual Youth Football Camp.
Over 200 football players, ages 8 to 13, showed up to learn from Ray and former Mizzou star Markus Golden.
Ray, along with his mother, Sebrina Johnson, and over 100 volunteers, started the free camp to help educate youth football players and parents on the proper ways to handle the sport. In addition, Ray just wants the youth of Kansas City to continue dreaming.
“I want kids to understand that it’s OK to dream,” Ray said. “It’s OK to set your goals and your expectations high. If you can figure out a way to work and put forth all your effort, you can get to that.
“As a kid, people called me cocky or this and that, but I always had high expectations and goals for myself. I always wanted to be the best, so I am just trying to bring that mind-set to these kids, because it’s possible.”
Johnson, who said she’s an extremely proud mother, shares the same sentiment as Ray: “We need to teach our kids to dream. They need to know that if Shane, a kid from the inner city without opportunities, can do it, then you can, too.”
From the fundamentals of tackling, to recovering your body, to a parent workshop, Ray and Johnson want to give the Kansas City community what they didn’t have during Ray’s rise to stardom.
“We are just trying to provide a forum for parents to ask questions because I didn’t know a single person who could help me through the process with Shane,” Johnson said. “If I could be a resource for someone, that’s all we want.”
Though living in Denver, Ray plans on making the youth football camp an annual event at Bishop Miege, and he expects it to continue to grow.
“This has been a dream and a vision of mine. This is a whole day of fun, but it’s also about education,” Ray said. “More importantly, it’s just about the kids.”