Shane Ray’s rise to NFL stardom is one of the great stories in sports today.
Ray grew up in Kansas City, in an area that was known as “The Murder Factory” and was the subject of a 2009 Kansas City Star series. Ray went on to play at Bishop Miege High School and Missouri before being selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
In the Players’ Tribune, Ray detailed his journey, and it begins with a story of when he was 12 years old and he saw a dead man in the road. The man had been shot in the back of the head. It’s chilling.
Here is part of what Ray wrote after that:
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When you’re a kid, it takes a little while before you start really thinking about the fact that you’re living in a bad area. It was just home to me. I didn’t know any better. Then I got a little older and I’d invite friends over after school. We’d get to my house and they’d always react the same way:
“This is where you live?”
Then we’d go to one of their houses in Mission, Kansas. Rows and rows of perfectly maintained lawns in front of huge brick houses. When I’d get back home, I would suddenly notice the stuff on my block — like it appeared out of nowhere. Burned buildings. Condemned property. Drug dens. Shady dudes on the corner. And it dawned on me:
So I guess this is the hood, then.
Much of what is in Ray’s essay was reported by The Star’s Tod Palmer for a story in 2014. Ray was motivated in high school by scouting sites that said many other players were better than him. Ray’s time at Mizzou was not mentioned much, except for the fact that he was a huge star in college.
Ray injured his foot in the Citrus Bowl and that affected his performance in the Combine. Then came some really bad news. Here is what Ray wrote:
Then, just days before the draft, I got cited for possession of marijuana.
I messed up. I own it. I knew I had made such a stupid mistake. From the beginning, I tried to hold myself accountable. What I didn’t know is how many people would let a single mistake like that be the only thing that defines my character.
Ray’s draft stock dropped, and he was not happy. But then he got a call on the night of the draft from a man that many Chiefs fans loathe.
Again, this is from the essay:
I thought my last out was Arizona at 24, since I had talked to coach (Bruce) Arians a little bit. Then suddenly my phone rang. It was Denver. More specifically, it was John Elway. He told me they had traded with Detroit for the 23rd pick, and they were about to draft me.
I hadn’t had any conversations with the Broncos until that morning. And even after I talked to them, I didn’t think I was going to end up there.
Now John Elway was calling me?
It didn’t even sink in at first. I was a Bronco?
Ray considered joining the Broncos a blessing and how he was fortunate to make it out of Kansas City. You can read all of what Ray wrote here.