It’s not that the reality of the coronavirus hasn’t negatively impacted Raymond Calais during his pursuit of getting picked in the NFL draft.
His training facility has closed and the UL weight room also isn’t available these days as the nation attempts to halt the spread of the virus.
Moreover, scheduled interviews with NFL clubs have been canceled and UL’s pro day is no longer going to take place.
There are plenty of things former UL All-American right guard Kevin Dotson could be agonizing over these days.
“I’m just trying to stay positive,” Calais said. “I know the coronavirus is basically shut down everything. Hopefully, in a month or so everything will go back to normal. I’m just trying to stay cool and do my workouts so I can be ready.”
But the former Cecilia High football and track standout is also hoping his list of credentials is long enough to overcome any such obstacles.
“I’m definitely thankful that was I able to go to the combine and the all-star game,” said Calais, who rushed for 886 yards and six touchdowns on 117 carries last fall. “I think I put my best foot forward. That kind of helped me. Right now, our pro day is canceled. That’s going to affect some of my teammates, but as far as me, probably not, because I did most of my work at the combine and at the all-star game.”
He likely opened some eyes by running a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, which was the third-best time for running backs behind Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (4.39) and Appalachian State’s Darrynton Evans (4.41).
In some ways, UL redshirt sophomore Chris Smith is going to face more pressure than most first-year performers on the collegiate level.
Before that, Calais showed off that speed with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game in Pasadena, California on Jan. 18.
“That was huge for me,” Calais said of the kickoff return. “That was exciting. It kind of happened kind of fast. I saw the whole, then I hit it and then I was in touchdown mode. It was kind of hard for me to try to remember it because it happened to fast.
“When I talked to coaches at the combine, they were happy how I did it and that it was something I can do at the next level as well.”
At the NFLPA all-star game, he was surrounded by former NFL players and coaches, including his all-star game head coach Hue Jackson.
UL coach Billy Napier spent much of last season impressed with how quickly wide receiver Peter LeBlanc adapted to Division I football as a tru…
“Everything was advice,” Calais said. “Even when we were in meetings, it was be there 15 minutes early, take notes, be attentive, always be a professional. “Every day, you’re basically on an interview. They said coaches want to see if you like football or do you love football? It was really good to hear advice from them every day.”
Hearing that feedback allowed Calais to appreciate the way he had been prepared under UL coach Billy Napier and his staff.
“I want to give a huge shout-out and huge thanks to coach (Billy) Napier and his staff,” Calais said. “Coach Napier helped me as well with the process and just being professional. We’d always watch film and always be talking about these moments. Coach (Jabbar) Juluke would do a lot of those things too.”
Furthermore, former UL teammates prepared Calais for his NFL combine experience.
“It was exactly what I thought it was going to be,” he said. “I talked to Tracy Walker and a couple of people that had been to the combine. They kind of told me how it was going to be — waking up really early, having to go the hospital and do MRIs and X-rays and then meet with coaches late at night until 11. It was early mornings and late nights.”
In addition to his flashy 40 time, Calais said he thought he fared well in other areas at the combine.
“I definitely feel like I pretty much did my best,” said Calais, who had 10 receptions for 67 yards and a score as a senior. “Some teams were worried about my shoulder. I ended up hitting 20 reps at 225 on the bench press, and I caught the ball well in our position work.”
It’s still very early and as UL coach Billy Napier put it, the spring season is the time to throw ideas against the wall and “see what sticks.”
So while Calais recognizes his journey isn’t complete, he’s also trying to appreciate each step along the way.
“I stay around my family a lot,” Calais said. “Of course, everybody is really nervous and anxious to see where I’m going to go, how everything is going to work out. Really, I’m just excited. This is something I’ve been looking forward to my whole life.
“To be honest, I never thought I was going to get the chance to play in the NFL and even be able to go to the NFL combine. All of that stuff is just shocking to me and just a huge blessing to me. I’m just enjoying the process really. I’m not trying to overthink it. I’m just enjoying it.”
A year ago as coach Billy Napier began his second spring season with the UL Ragin’ Cajuns, there was little question who his starting quarterb…