With training camp just weeks away from kicking off, Titans wide receiver Kalif Raymond took time out of his busy schedule to catch up with us here at Music City Miracles.
Signed to a futures contract in December, Raymond told me a crazy story about his epic journey to southeast Asia this past summer. He also shared his thoughts on the Titans wide receiver room, Arthur Smith and a whole lot more. This is a fun one.
JM: Thanks for joining me today, Kalif. How’s your off season looked so far?
KR: I’m back in Atlanta right now. I normally train out in Denver for the altitude but I’m training in Atlanta right now. It’s a little bit later into the off season and I wanted to be a little closer to home. We’re just a couple of weeks out before we report and I’m working hard.
JM: What’s the most interesting thing you did this summer? I heard a story but I wanna hear you tell it (laughs).
KR: You already know what I’m about to tell you (laughs).
JM: Well, not all of it.
KR: I went out to Thailand in January. I took a month long vacation. Some may call it a vacation, I call it a journey (laughs). I went from Australia to Bali and then to Thailand. I did a lot of meditating in the mountains. I just wanted to get away from my thoughts and find myself a little. I did a lot of meditation out there. I read a lot of books. I actually had a Sak Yant done by a monk. A Sak Yant is an original tattoo basically. I had that done out in the woods. That was a crazy, crazy experience (laughs).
JM: What’s it called exactly?
KR: A Sak Yant.
JM: Done by a monk in the woods?
KR: Yes sir. The monk’s name was Rachan. He was amazing. He had a temple out in the woods and I went to meet him there. They used to use a bamboo needle but now they use a steel rod and needle. It’s better for hygiene. They basically put a blessing on your back. Well, it was done on my back for me. The tattoo is meant to symbolize a blessing. The craziest part was they didn’t speak any English. I had a translator with me.
JM: What’s the tattoo of?
KR: It was a portrait of a guy named Hanuman. He was a guy who rose to the highest level of spiritualism. He symbolizes strength, courage and the good in humanity. That’s what I got put on my back.
JM: That’s an unbelievable story.
KR: It was wild. I met him at his temple four hours away from the mountain I spent most of my time at. I was in a totally new country. I didn’t speak the language. I was a foreigner. I actually made the four hour trip to meet him by myself. I was alone for that portion of the trip. I went from the mountains to the temple by myself. Being alone in southeast Asia, it definitely took a lot. It was a journey and it taught me a lot about life. You definitely feel differently about how we live back home, the money we spend and so on. It was well needed.
JM: Transitioning back to football, I want to talk a little about the life of an undrafted free agent. Of course that’s how you broke into the league in 2016.
KR: I had to crawl, scratch and grind. Being an undrafted free agent definitely isn’t easy. You don’t have that sense of security. It’s another mountain to climb. You have to believe in yourself. What I’ve come to realize after doing this for so long is that there’s only so many undrafted free agents that make a team every year. The difference between the guys that do and don’t is the mentality that you have. If you carry yourself like you’re supposed to be there and keep your mental state under control in practices, games and meetings, you stay focused and be calm, cool and collected, you can play with anybody. It’s just football and you’ve been playing it for so long. It’s definitely been a journey. I started out in Denver, went to New York and spent time with both the Jets and Giants, and now I’m here in Tennessee.
Even here in Tennessee, I’m definitely had to grind and do everything I could to show that I belong. It’s been a journey with different organizations involved but all of it was necessary for me. It’s helped me grow and understand more about myself. I understand what I can do for this team. I believe I’ve created a niche for myself.
JM: The Titans obviously like you a fair bit. This is your second stint with them and they signed you to a futures contract back in December of 2018 and you’re still here six months later. What are you trying to show them this off season?
KR: We have such a talented group here. Everybody can ball. With me personally, I need to come in and show that I can play everywhere and that I know the playbook inside out. At the end of the day, I know I can ball. I know I can run. I know I can play receiver in this league. More than anything, I need to show them that. I need to show them they can rely on me on every down. I can convert on third down. I can make a big play on first down. That versatility for me is my best bet. Considering we have such a talented group here, I need to make sure that I can play anywhere. I need to be versatile and do my job.
JM: What’s your impression of wide receiver coach Rob Moore?
KR: I love coach Moore. That’s my guy. First of all, he’s played this game. When it comes down to the little things, he really understands coverage. He understands what we’re seeing as wide receivers. He’s played this game at a high level. He can always teach us the little things. When we’re out there, he sees what we see. He can relay that information to us and help us out. If something didn’t work out, he can point out why. He knows a lot about the game. Aside from that, he’s just such a great dude. He cares about his players. He goes to bat for us. That’s my impression of him. He’s a good guy and a great coach.
JM: You came in pretty late last year but you were around for a portion of the Matt LaFleur era. You mentioned learning the playbook. You’re here now with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. What’s your impression of coach Smith and how similar is the offense from what you saw last season?
KR: For me personally, everything is kinda new. Even when I came in towards the end, I had a lot of information thrown at me during Week 17. It’s still a new offense for me basically. I’ve picked it up fairly quickly though. When it comes to studying, I’ve always been strong with the playbook. I feel good going into camp.
As for my impression of coach Smith, it’s almost like what I said about coach Moore. Coach Smith is a very genuine person. He told us that at the end of the day, we lead this team. The quarterbacks, the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and offensive line lead this unit. We lead the offense. He told us that he might put a play on the board but we’re the ones that make it come to life. He may draw an arrow but we make the arrows come to life. That was his message to us. He understands what our skill sets are and he wants to put us in a position to be successful. He’s not afraid to take a shot either. He’s willing to put everything on the line and go for it. I think that’s what I like the most about him. That kind of energy makes us play a certain way. That sort of confidence will resonate throughout the entire offense.
JM: I love that right there. You mentioned that wide receiver group is full of ballers. It’s an interesting group. You’re all pretty similar in age as well.
KR: It’s crazy because I’ve been on some teams where you have a lot of older, big time guys. With this group, with everybody being so young and so hungry, that’s what’s pushing us to be better. We’re all competing at such a high level and we can all see that every one of us wants it so badly. When you have a young group like us, it just makes everybody better. It makes a young group grow even quicker because the competition is so close. There isn’t a big jump from let’s say tier one to the next guys. Everybody is so close, young and hungry. We’re all putting our best foot forward. We have our undrafted free agents, young draft picks and so on. Everyone has a story of how they got here. Everybody can ball top to bottom. Every receiver on this roster can play. That’s what’s gonna push us to the next level. You’re gonna get the best out of all of us. It’s a great group. I can’t wait to get back to work with the guys.
JM: Thanks for your time today, Kalif. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this. In closing, what are you hoping to show everyone in pre season?
KR: I’m ready to go mentally. I’m a calm guy. I do my best work when the pressure’s on. My mental state is imperative when it’s time to rock. I need to come in well conditioned more than anything. It’s not the first three quarters, it’s the fourth quarter when the game’s on the line. I wanna make sure that’s when I put my best foot forward.