April 30 is a day former USF defensive back Mistral Raymond will always remember.
He was gathered with a large number of family members at his cousin’s home in Palmetto, waiting to see if his lifelong dream of joining the NFL would come true.
“I figure there would just be a few family members, but it turns out there was quite a crowd in the house,” Raymond said. “My aunts and grandmother did a lot of cooking, so there was food, and it was basically a little party.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars called and told Raymond he was on their radar, but they never called back to say they were prepared to draft him.
“The next call comes from the Minnesota Vikings, and the first thing they said was, ‘Are you ready to become a Viking?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely,'” he said. “They said, ‘Get ready, your name is about to come across the screen.'”
Though they could only hear one side of the conversation, Raymond said his family knew the call was the one they were waiting to receive.
“Then my name went across the screen, and (my family) just lost it,” he said. “It’s a moment I’ll never, ever forget. Great moment.”
Though the NFL lockout has put his rookie season in question, the excitement he felt during the draft hasn’t wavered. The Vikings selected Raymond in the sixth round with the 170th overall pick.
Now, he waits.
Because the NFL lockout resumed as soon as the draft ended, Raymond’s been unable to contact coaches since he was drafted. He’s also been unable to acquire a playbook to start learning the defense, where he expects to play cornerback, though he’s also open to safety if the Vikings need him there.
“That’s my main thing right now,” Raymond said. “Other than making sure I’m in shape, I really, really hope I can find a way into that playbook. It’s hard right now with the circumstances, not being able to contact any coaches. I’ve reached out to some of the veterans on the team … but I’ll keep searching around so I can start learning.”
Raymond spent Wednesday in Bradenton working out at the IMG Academies alongside some of his new teammates, including tight end Kyle Rudolph and former FSU quarterback Christian Ponder, who the Vikings selected in the first round and organized the workouts.
“It’s a great situation to have them right there in my hometown and go down and get familiar with those guys a little bit. That camaraderie and getting familiar with each other is vital right now,” he said.
After playing against Ponder in the 2009 season, Raymond said the two have talked and have a respect for each other.
“I remember the way (former Bulls) Jason Pierre-Paul, George Selvie and Kion Wilson knocked him down and he kept getting back up,” he said. “It speaks volumes for the type of player that he is. I’m excited to be a teammate of his now and not chasing him around.”
Raymond flew to Minnesota for a visit with the Vikings coaching staff in March along with Texas’ Aaron Williams, a cornerback who was chosen in the second round by the Buffalo Bills.
He said his visit was a good one, though he wasn’t sure if the Vikings would draft him.
“I can’t say I was expecting they would be the team to pick me because you just don’t know, but I did get a great feeling from the time I spent with them,” Raymond said. “I think I really impressed those guys, and I was impressed with the way they showed interest in me.”
Raymond spent part of his college career playing in the cold weather of Iowa at Ellsworth Community College, but he said he will need a wardrobe update before hitting the tundra of Minneapolis.
“After the draft was over, I tweeted (Williams) saying, ‘Buffalo and Minnesota are pretty cold. We’re going to need some new clothes.'”
As one of his wardrobe changes, Raymond will trade his No. 16 Bulls uniform for a No. 30 Minnesota jersey, the number he expects to wear once the labor situation is resolved and he can begin camp.