Second year wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud III passed on finding an elite training facility for his first NFL offseason. McCloud needed to go home.
The receiver did not have the rookie season he dreamed of – the Clemson grad was inactive for six games and pulled in five receptions for 36 yards in 10 games he played. Heading into the offseason, the sixth round pick knew changes had to be made.
"I had ups and downs through the season," McCloud said. "I got hurt and wasn't playing, then was playing, then wasn't playing. I just had to get my spirit, my foundation and my faith strong."
His foundation resides in Tampa, Fla. So, McCloud headed home to work on himself with help from his biggest influence, his father, Ray-Ray Jr.
"Just every day working on my craft and the little things," Ray-Ray III said. "Being able to become a disciplined professional. Waking up early to workout."
Ray-Ray's father helped push him to adopt a strict schedule, which included two workouts a day beginning at 5:30 a.m. Nutrition was also a strong focus.
"It's just a big difference from college into the NFL because in college you're kind of spoon feeding kids," Ray-Ray Jr said. "When you're on your own, it's different. He had to learn how to do that on his own. Not that he wasn't doing it, he just didn't understand how to do it in the right way.
"His problem was more off the field. It didn't have anything to do with on the field. Just understanding how to do a schedule, how to do this and that. Ray-Ray has been like that since he has been little. It's nothing that's bad, you just have to build on it and grow and mature."
Ray-Ray admits he can get off-course but knew going back to a familiar setting would help fix the problem.
"When I went home, just him [Ray-Ray's dad] being around and me being older now and being more mature, understanding what things he's trying to instill in me," Ray-Ray III said. "It just clicked."
Going home reset Ray-Ray's spirit.
"My family is Christian and the whole household is close to each other and close to God," Ray-Ray III said.
"You can fall off at times but where we live and just being with them, the way they work, the things they do, the smiles they bring to me every day. The smiles they have normally, it just brings a great experience. Just work hard, go out there and have fun. Do what you love. I've been playing the game since I was six, can't ask for anything else."
A change in his mentality and a rediscovered love for the game, has Ray-Ray blossoming on the field. In camp, he has been a consistent target for quarterback Josh Allen. Ray-Ray has seen a lot of action in the slot and looks like he can be a dependable receiver in-season.
Heading into his sophomore season, Ray-Ray is looking to his two brothers for motivation. His brothers, coincidentally, are also heading into their sophomore season.
"All my little brothers are on the same course," Ray-Ray III said with a smile.
"My little brother's going to be a sophomore [in college] this year, I'm going to be a sophomore in the league and my other little brother in high school is going to be a sophomore as well. We all kind of have a goal like, we all had our freshman dues and little things so this year we kind of have like a little bet for whoever has the best second year. We're all pushing each other for it. I have one fighting for a starting job at USF and one at Gaither High School in Tampa."
Just work hard, go out there and have fun. Do what you love. Ray-Ray McCloud III
Successfully standing on a firm foundation with his mind in check and his family by his side, Ray-Ray is going into year two with a new sense of confidence.
"I've just been very encouraged by his development off the field, development on the field," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Usually those two are correlated. The way he came back to us in the spring, it was clear to us that he had worked in a lot of areas and so you've seen the results all be it short term through camp."
Ray-Ray's father's prayer for him is simple.
"My prayer is just for him to be the kid God made him," Ray-Ray Jr explained. "Be the player that God made him to be. I've dreamt it even when he was little. I had visions of it, that he was going to be great."