The Titans started off hot this season, and last Sunday in Minnesota was no exception. Tennessee wide receiver Kalif Raymond had the best game of his career against the Vikings last Sunday, continuing his rise from an NFL cast-off to an integral part of a dynamic Titans offense over the last few seasons.
As a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian High School, Raymond did not receive much attention from college scouts due to a serious injury he suffered during his last season. Despite the setback, he persevered and sent out many emails to football programs that had high academic standards. The only three colleges that responded were Lehigh, Georgetown, and Holy Cross.
The 5-foot-8-inch, 182-pound wide receiver decided to play college football for Holy Cross. During his time as a Crusader, Raymond played in 40 games, logging 23 starts during his four seasons, producing 155 receptions for 1,683 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also returned 62 punts for 464 yards (7.5 yards per return) and one touchdown, as well as 80 kickoff returns for a total of 1,809 yards (22.6-yard average) and two touchdowns.
What you might not know about Raymond is that he was actually a dual-sport athlete in college. In addition to his position as a wide receiver on the football team with Holy Cross, he also competed on the track and field team. Raymond placed second in the 100-meter dash event at the 2015 New England Outdoor Championship with a 10.71-second time.
Raymond did not have an easy path to his NFL debut, though. Without an invite to the combine — and with Holy Cross not having their own pro day — Raymond went to Harvard’s pro day and turned in a blistering 4.34 40-yard dash. That time would have been good for second behind Will Fuller’s 4.31 among the wide receivers at the combine in 2016. (Yes, pro day times are notoriously unreliable, but in this case, Raymond’s on-field speed indicates that is was likely among the more accurate pro day results).
Raymond’s first NFL chance came when he signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2016. After being waived at the end of his first training camp, he bounced around the league a bit, making stops with the New York Jets and the New York Giants. Raymond was waived a total of six times before joining Tennessee’s practice squad in 2018. From there, he was waived by the Titans, and was picked up by the Giants again, before being waived and signed back to the Titans practice squad.
Raymond finally broke through to the Titans 53-man roster in 2019, when he was a surprise inclusion after roster cuts at the end of training camp. However, he was waived one last time that season before coming back to the active roster in Week 10 and remaining up for the rest of the season.
During his time on the active roster in 2019, he played eight games and logged nine receptions for a total of 170 yards and one touchdown. He also averaged 11.3 yards per punt return and 22.4 yards per kickoff return. In two postseason appearances, Raymond produced one spectacular 45-yard touchdown reception against the Baltimore Ravens.
But you cannot rate Raymond’s talent off of stats alone. The “Route God” — as our own Zach Lyons likes to call him — adds much-needed speed to the receiver position for the Titans. Raymond’s ability to shake coverage and get open deep down the field is an important element in Arthur Smith’s play-action passing attack.
During Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, Raymond made a few clutch plays that changed the course of the game. He caught all three of his targets, picking up a career high 118 yards, including a 61-yard grab that set up a Derrick Henry’s go-ahead touchdown just two plays later.
That catch, along with Raymond’s 44-yard reception on the game’s opening drive, represented the Titans two most important plays of the game from an expected points added (EPA) standpoint, adding over 8.1 points worth of combined value to the team. It’s certainly safe to say that Tennessee isn’t 3-0 today without him.
It seems that the winding road of Raymond’s football career has finally led him to a home in Nashville with the Titans.