SAN DIEGO SPORTS DAILY
POSTED ON APRIL 23, 2016
By Thomas Frey
Everyday is not only an obstacle, but a welcome challenge for Aaron Ray. The cornerback has a goal of reaching the NFL. He forgo his final two years of college eligibility to play for the Tri-Cities Fever of the Indoor Football League where he routinely covers wide receivers that are 6-foot-4 or taller, some with Division 1 experience and some who have played in the Canadian Football League.
"The talent is crazy," Ray said. " I play against some good competition. It's cool to see where you stack up."
The IFL has been a great place for Ray to learn because receivers start running from 10 yards out before the ball is snapped. It is different from outdoor football where corners cover players who don't have a running start.
"No pro corner is routinely doing what we do in practice," Ray said. "This is the best situation for me. I feel like if I can master this, I can master anything."
Ray left for the IFL with two years of college eligibility remaining. He played at Mesa College in San Diego where his strong work ethic led to him signing a National Letter of Intent to play at Dixie State in Utah. It didn't work out and he returned to Mesa for two games before he ended his college career to play in the IFL.
"The last few years have been up and down for me," he said. "There have been good moments, bad moments, it has just been different experiences to put me in the position I'm in today."
He hadn't played a full year of football since 2013 and in his time away from the game he hadn't been working out as much as he would have liked. His tireless work ethic is what made him as strong, quick and agile as possible. His intelligence allowed him to get in front of the ball and make plays on defense like when he intercepted a pass against Victor Valley College and took it to the house at Mesa.
Ray was still working out though, and he ultimately made the decision to put college behind him. He had a decision to make and he picked the IFL since it would give him more of a challenge then Division II and prepare him better for the next level.
"It's a different type of path that most ordinary athletes don't choose," Ray said. "Playing in the IFL is the best move for me. I know if I master it, it is a great opportunity, a great chance."
He has recorded tackles in multiple games against the Colorado Crush and a game against the Wichita Falls Nighthawks and is part of the No. 1 pass defense in the league. Now with football as a full time job, Ray is putting in as much time as he can into working out, running, practicing and watching film. He tries to gain any edge he can on opponents, and he can create an edge by anticipating what might happen.
"What I bring to the table is important," Ray said. "It's a mental battle. You gotta have the killer extinct and do whatever it takes to out will your opponent."
Ray, along with the rest of his teammates are all sort of in the same boat, just looking to showcase their skills so that a higher league will come calling.