ENGLEWOOD, Colo.— Kalif Raymond is not a big man. In fact, at 5’9,” 160 pounds, he’s one of the smallest players on the Denver Broncos’ 90-man roster. However, whatever Raymond lacks in size, he makes up for in confidence and work ethic.
“I’m going to go 110 percent,” Raymond said. “This is my dream. This is what I want to do. It’s been a great experience so far, but I’m trying to make this a lifestyle. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I play football in the NFL, but I want to play for the Broncos. Just being here is like no other. If I could do anything to make the 53-man roster to play for this team, I am going to take it every time.”
The Broncos signed Raymond as an undrafted free agent out of Holy Cross in April. During his career there, he caught 155 passes for 1,683-yards and 16 total touchdowns.
He was the first player on the field the first three days of training camp. On opening day, he arrived nearly a half-hour before any of his teammates.
“I want to be the first guy in and the last guy out,” Raymond said. “You can never get too many reps.”
Raymond has become this season’s training camp darling. Nearly every day he has made an impressive catch, flashed his speed as a returner, or gotten high praise from his coaches.
“You see a fearless returner,” Kubiak said. “That’s why we went and got him. That’s why [Special Teams Coordinator] Joe [DeCamillis] brought him here. He’s also doing some good stuff as a receiver. He’s small, but he runs good routes. He is a speed kid and does everything hard. We’ll see. I think he’s smart enough to understand that he doesn’t get too preoccupied with the depth chart. He is just trying to prove to us that he can play.”
The Broncos most definitely intended Raymond to only be in the mix for a kick-return job. But, as camp has gone on, his flashes of brilliance at wide receiver may have turned the heads of both the media and his coaches.
Raymond’s speed has allowed him to capitalize on the matchups he’s getting against the slower second- or third-team defensive backs he’s going up against. Kubiak was heard loudly praising him during 11-on-11 drills Sunday and during the one-on-one period, Raymond side-stepped corner Lorenzo Doss and got about 10-yards of separation before making a great toe-tapping catch along the sideline.
“He must have caught three big balls in practice,” Kubiak said. “Kalif is very explosive. He’s not very big, but he is very explosive.”
Despite those flashes of brilliance at receiver, Raymond is still most likely to make this team as a slot-receiver or kick-returner, a role DeCamillis said he is well-equipped for.
“I think he’s done a good job,” DeCamillis said. “We worked on kick-off return today, it looked like he had a couple nice shots there. I haven’t seen the film yet from today. On punt return and the team stuff, he was good. We’ve just got to work on return mechanics to make sure he keeps catching every ball.”
Raymond is at or near the bottom of the Broncos’ receiver depth chart and will have to be flat-out special during the preseason to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. For his part, he seems more than willing to do what it takes to make this team.
“This is my dream,” Raymond said. “Anything I can do to get onto that field, whether it be at receiver, returner, sniper, gunner, anything they need. I’ll go out there and snap the ball if they need me to.”