Mistral Raymond – Walk On To Vikings 6th Round Draft Pick
The Palmetto High graduate earned his way into the NFL (170th pick) thanks to a two-year career at the University of South Florida, where he turned himself into an All Big East Conference defensive back.
The 6-1, 195-pound Raymond began his career in junior college in Iowa. He was set to accept a scholarship to either Temple or Central Michigan when a horrific incident brought him back home and eventually led him to USF as a walk-on.
A home that his mother and other family members were living at in Palmetto was bombarded with Molotov cocktails and came under fire from masked gunmen, who picked the wrong house to revenge a murder.
The family lost everything in the fire, and his sister was shot four times. She survived, but his mother, who was disabled, died six months after the incident from a lung-related illness, though Raymond said it’s unclear if the fire contributed to her death.
He came home to help his family, worked with the USF scout team for a year and then earned a spot in the secondary in 2009. He was granted a second year of eligibility last season and made the most of it.
Raymond dramatically improved his draft status when he won MVP honors in the Dixie Gridiron Classic postseason all-star game. He worked out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and had official visits with the Vikings and Chicago Bears.
Able to play cornerback or safety, Raymond’s versatility and intelligence made him very attractive to NFL teams. He had one of the highest scores on the league’s Wonderlic test.
“I can’t say I was surprised. You don’t know because there is always that little uncertainty, but I feel good,” said Raymond, who watched the draft at his cousin’s house in Palmetto. “I went into the day with the belief that I would get drafted. I refused to believe that no one would recognize the things that I did on the field. I am just grateful.”
When the Vikings called Raymond Saturday about his selection, various coaches told him they were impressed with his ability to retain information he was given when he was up there in a series of defensive meetings.
With the NFL lockout in place, Raymond says everything is in limbo. His agent, former University of Miami standout running back Melvin Bratton, told him to continue working out and be ready when the camps open up.
“When I saw my name, it was such a relief. It’s a gruesome process to go through,” Raymond said. “My focus right now is to be in the best possible shape that I can when the time comes to go up there. They definitely see me as a corner and someone who can play the nickel.”
Raymond was the second USF player selected in this draft and now has a chance to join three other defensive backs from Manatee County, who are currently playing in the NFL: Mike Jenkins (USF/Southeast), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State/Lakewood Ranch) and Fabian Washington (Nebraska/Bayshore).
All were first-round picks. Jenkins is with Dallas, Rodgers-Cromartie joined Arizona and Washington went to Baltimore.
“I have developed a great relationship with those three guys, and they have given me a lot of advice,” Raymond said. “Last night (Friday), I watched the draft with Mike. They all said keep the faith and stay calm. They feed me knowledge. It’s such a benefit to have guys like that around you.”
“Mistral is a great success story,” said USF head coach Skip Holtz. “He walked on and really earned his way into this position, and I’m excited about the opportunity he has. He’ll bring a lot of flexibility to the Vikings because he can play corner and safety. He has great range, and when you combine it with his work ethic, he’ll definitely have a chance to succeed at the next level.”
Raymond played in 25 career games, starting 15, during his two-year playing career with USF that saw him go from walk-on to starter and captain.
He tallied 96 tackles, 6.5 for losses, two interceptions and seven passes broken up. Last season, Raymond earned second-team All-Big East honors after posting 56 tackles, 4.5 for losses, an interception and seven passes broken up.
“I’m so happy for Mistral,” said USF defensive backs coach Rick Smith. “I know this is a dream come true for him. He was a wonderful young man to coach and he did everything we asked him to do. He’s an old-school type player, and he’s got so much passion for the game, which is going to help him be successful in the NFL.”
Read the original source here
MNVikingsBlog.com Analysis: This is a great story to read. With the unfortunate situation Raymond and his family were put into it makes his success story that much more exciting. Obviously a very talented Cornerback with an extremely team (family) oriented attitude. Raymond adds depth to a young defensive back unit that makes up the Vikings secondary. With Griffen and Cook both on IR last year its possible that Raymond could play early this season if rehab doesn’t go as planned. Definitely a great draft pick, hopefully a gem in the late rounds that can help fix the secondar.