Kyle and Amanda Graff moved to Colorado Springs last summer when Kyle, a staff Sargent in the U.S. Army, got stationed at Ft. Carson.
Their daughter, Alexys, soon became a big Broncos fan.
"She watches every game, and is even a junior Denver Broncos cheerleader. She watches all the training camps on TV and watched the entire draft," Amanda said.
The family is originally from Kansas City — and Alexys' grandfather is a Mizzou alumnus — so she follows two SEC teams, Mizzou and Tennessee (her father is from Knoxville and knows UT alumnus Malik Jackson).
"After Ray was drafted, her first thing was finding a Ray jersey," Amanda said. "We had to go to the team store at Sports Authority Field (at Mile High) and have a personalized one printed immediately."
Alxeys went to five mandatory camps this offseason and missed seeing Ray each time, leaving her heartbroken, her mom said. Then Kyle used his connection.
Malik Jackson helped the Graffs get a spot in the VIP tent at practice on Friday, and Alexys got to meet Ray after practice just a few days before her eighth birthday. Her mother said Alexys was sobbing when he came over.
"By far the best part of my day," Ray posted on Instagram Friday afternoon. "This young lady had a sign saying all she wanted for her birthday was a selfie with me. Couldn't turn down the opportunity to make it happen. Happy birthday, Alexys."
"Her room is turning into Broncos-Shane Ray-Mizzou from princess and girlie girl," Amanda said. "She is a die hard Broncos fan, and now even more so, a Shane Ray fan."
It was just a small act by Ray, taking a photo with a young fan.
But it's something Alexys will never forget.
"Alexys won't stop saying this is the best day of her life! And how it's the best birthday! I think she was (his) first sobbing fan, Shane was so taken back but such a sweetheart.
"These guys don't realize they mean so much to so many people and fans . . . And how one hello, wave, or hug can change someone's life!
"She can't wait to meet up with him again soon!"