Written By: Marty Strey
May 15, 2015
Head down. Eyes closed. Heart pounding. Mind racing. He glances down at his cell phone. It rings.
And with the 23rd pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select Shane Ray, Defensive End, Missouri.
Shane Ray, a boy who’s seen more crime in his short life than most see in a lifetime, grew up in an 8-mile area of Kansas City appropriately nicknamed, “The Murder Factory”. He was born May 18, 1993 to Sebrina Johnson and Wendell Ray. His father, a standout football player at Missouri and was drafted to the Minnesota Vikings in 1991, left him when he was one.
As Johnson struggled to make ends meet for her family, her son struggled to cope with not having a father. As he grew up, Ray experienced more hardships. His older cousin, Justen Johnson, Ray’s closest father figure, was shot and killed in 2007. Six months later, his aunt, a large supporter of Ray, died of colon cancer. A year later, Ray’s great uncle died of a stroke. Ray was falling apart emotionally and shutting everyone out.
“At one point I thought I couldn’t reach him,” Johnson said, “I just told him ‘I don’t care how much you push me away, I’m still going to be there. I’m not going to give up on you.’”
As Ray reached his high school years, he began to shape into the man he had potential to be. Tim Grunhard was the head football coach at Bishop Miege, a private school where Ray attended, and molded Ray into a football player. Ray was pushed physically and mentally into an elite college prospect. Gradually, Johnson saw her angered son transformed into a man with a passion and strong work ethic for football. Ray then graduated and committed to the University of Missouri, where his father had made his name.
Ray redshirted his freshman season. He was after one goal-- to prove he was a better player and person than his star father.
Ray’s mentality of trying to be better than his father had affected his ability to be a team player. Before the spring practice of 2013, his roommates, knowing of his past and father, helped him to become a leader of the team.
From a distracted, angered player to an optimistic leader on and off the field, Ray quit trying to be better than his father.
Ray was on a quest to change and it showed on the field. In his junior and final season at Missouri, Ray set the single-season school record of 14 ½ sacks, 22 ½ tackles for loss, and 65 total tackles earning SEC defensive P.O.Y. honors.
His future now lies ahead of him as he declared for the NFL draft. His reasoning, to buy his mother a new house out of “The Murder Factory”. He began to mend a relationship with his father that was long overdue. Finally, he was given the chance that every child dreamed of, to play in the NFL.