When you see Kalif Raymond on the field, you can just tell. When you hear him talk with poise and eloquence, there is no doubt whatsoever. The undrafted free agent receiver from Holy Cross is having the time of his life.
You want the early leader in the clubhouse to become the start of the Denver Broncos training camp? Look no further than No. 19.
“This is my dream,” Raymond said after practice on Sunday. “Anything I can do to get onto that field, whether it be a receiver, returner, sniper, gunner ... anything they need. I’ll go out there and snap the ball if they need me to.
“I come out here and make sure whatever they put me at I do it 110 percent, even at receiver or returner. Whatever I can do to get on this team is what I’m going to do. This is the organization I want to play for.”
Raymond’s last two days at camp are the kind that put players on NFL rosters. The highlights were a 39-yard touchdown to end practice on Saturday, followed by another long touchdown on Sunday. In between, he’s catching everything thrown his way.
The quarterback on those two passes? Paxyton Lynch. It seems the two are building quite the chemistry.
“It’s all that guy,” Raymond said with a bright smile. “As you can see, he’s working his tail off to make sure that we are all coming out of our breaks. He, Mark (Sanchez) and Trevor (Siemian), there were some passes today where they were throwing it before some guys were coming out of the breaks and it’s hitting them right there.
“Paxton is working night and day to get it done. I’m coming out of my break and it’s all him putting the ball out there. It’s just credit to how hard he’s working. As long as I do my job, he’s taking care of his.”
Lynch developing quite the chemistry with Raymond, who is having another strong day at #BroncosCamp.— Ian St. Clair (@IanStClair) July 31, 2016
The key for Raymond’s success? He’s getting comfortable. That’s the biggest difference between organized team activities and now. That’s a testament to how hard he’s worked off the field since he got the phone call in May after the draft.
“The plays are probably the hardest thing more than anything,” he said. “Now that I’m getting that down, I am getting more comfortable and am starting to learn in concepts. Once that gets down, you can go out there, play and worry about football.
“You’re not thinking, ‘OK, what do I have on this play?’ That’s what’s come a little bit easier. I can know every position on the field a little bit better now. Now that that’s happened, I’ve gotten a little bit more into the groove of playing within myself instead of thinking so much.”
That work has not gone unnoticed. There was a break in practice on Sunday when the drills switched to special teams and Denver was going to work on punt coverage. As Raymond moved into position to field the punt, Gary Kubiak said, “Keep up the good work, 19. You’re doing a great job, keep it up now.”
When you keep making plays, you’re going to get noticed ... and by the people who matter most.
“That’s a great observation,” Kubiak said. “Here is a young kid not getting many reps, and I sit some guys today and he gets a lot of reps. He must have caught three big balls in practice.
“Kalif is very explosive. He’s not very big, but he is very explosive. I think he understands his role and how he can make this team as a returner or a slot-type player for us. He’s taken advantage of it.”
Added offensive coordinator Rick Dennison: “He can run. He’s made some strides ever since he showed up in the spring. He’s just a little bit along and I think you can say the same thing, too. Bralon (Addison) got a late start because he was at Oregon, but even he’s marching along.
“Each of them are doing something. They’re bright, but they’re all learning. It’s just like what we said with the quarterbacks, you’re seeing what D.T. and Emmanuel (Sanders) are doing. They see how they work and they are learning from that. They get an opportunity to get a few more reps when those guys don’t play.”
The most likely scenario for Raymond to make the Broncos’ 53-man roster is as a returner. But if he keeps making plays like he has the last two days it’s going to make the final decision on the receivers even tougher. Keep in mind this is a deep, young group to begin with. But that’s just the way Raymond, and even Denver’s front office and coaches, want it.
“I’m going to go 110 percent. This is my dream,” Raymond said. “This is what I want to do. It’s been a great experience so far, but I’m trying to make this a lifestyle. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I play football in the NFL, but I want to play for the Broncos. Just being here is like no other. If I could do anything to make the 53-man roster to play for this team, I am going to take it every time.”
To get an idea of how much Raymond wants this dream to come true: He’s always the first guy on the field and one of the last to leave. On top of the plays he’s made, at this point he’s just showing off. In all seriousness, this is how an undrafted free agent makes a name for himself. He’s also put in the work to add more muscle and weight. He’s listed on the roster at 163 pounds, but he said he registered 181 on Sunday.
“The bigger I’ve gotten, it’s always been muscle for the most part. I’ve always gotten faster and I’ve always felt better,” Raymond said. “The size worked well. I didn’t feel any slower out there. I felt good.”
No doubt it’s still really early in camp and consistency is the key. When Raymond gets his name called, he has no room for error. He has to prove the coaches right to give him more reps at special teams and/or receiver. If and when he does that, he’ll continue to move up and up.
“I want to be the first guy in and the last guy out,” Raymond said. “At the same time, I want to make sure I am as loose as possible. If I am going to go 110 percent, I know my own body, so I need to be out here warmed up, ready to go. If I can get 100 punts, I’m going to hit 100 punts. I’m going to be out here as soon as the jugs are out here, so I can get those punts.
“You can never get too many reps. The day I go back there and can read it as soon as it comes off the kicks, is the day all the work has been put in. I’ve never played an NFL game, so when it comes off the punt, I need to be able to see everything, expect everything and be used to it already.”
When you watch him on the field, you can just tell.
When you listen to him speak, he leaves no doubt.
Raymond wants to make his dream of playing in the NFL come true.