Being drafted to the NFL is normally a time for a young man to bask in the glow of a life long dream. Shane Ray didn’t get to enjoy that moment like he should have.

A citation for marijuana possession Monday derailed his thoughts of going in the top-10 with smiles from family and friends all around. Instead the big time college linebacker dropped down to the No. 23 pick and was in a world of stress until that very moment his name was called. Another obstacle in his way was nothing new for Ray.

“It was a rough week for us,” Ray’s mother, Sebrina Johnson said Friday afternoon. “I was devastated because I have always been very active in Shane’s life and we have been very close and he has never been in any trouble before. No history of any issues, he just always wanted to play sports. Then to have an issue of this magnitude, it was devastating.”

The incident on Monday dropped Ray into the late first round and brought a slew of negative comments on his character. Throughout his life he had never been in trouble with the law but obstacles have always been in his way.

From a young age his mother never really saw the NFL prospect that was introduced at Dove Valley Friday. Ray had to constantly work through physical deficiencies and the absence of his father who played in the NFL, in order to make his way to the University of Missouri and then to the Denver Broncos.

“He was never the kid you expected to play in the NFL. He was never that at all,” Johnson said. “It was not a good scene but I just had to encourage him. Then he had a growth spurt and things just started changing.”

In eighth grade he grew roughly six inches and developed the speed that he is known for. His mother maintained that she was just hoping for a division II scholarship in order for a free education but when big time programs came calling she was ecstatic.

“I still didn’t get that he was really good but it was like ‘whew free college, he will be able to take care of himself’ but when he got to college he just exploded.”

Throughout his life he had several male role models that helped him along the way but the absence of his father fueled his play throughout his formative years.

“He played with anger. He played with ‘I want to tear down everything my dad did at Mizzou’. But when he let that go and started playing for himself and became a team player that’s when he exploded off of the field and do the things that he did,” Johnson said.

Just before his pro day, Ray reconciled with his father and Johnson has encouraged that relationship.

Following Ray’s magnificent season at Missouri in which he had 14.5 sacks and received the SEC defensive player of the year award, a toe injury and then Monday’s incident gave many teams doubts about his readiness for professional football.

Consequently, his handling of the citation has brought praise from the media and his mother had a strong influence on how he handled it. She encouraged Ray to maintain his commitment to attend the draft in Chicago and to face the questions that came with his mistake.

When asked why the Broncos and their fan base should trust that it was an isolated incident that won’t happen again Ray seemed sincere in honest in his answer.

“Unfortunately, I made a terrible decision on Monday that could have possible cost me my career but with that happening I also realized that this could be taken away from me at any one time. Just the feelings that I had when I felt like everything was over, I never want to feel that again. I can assure people that I will not jeopardize my career and I will continue to grow as a person.”

His mother was also asked about why Monday should not scare the Broncos organization and she reiterated the feelings that Ray experienced just days before the draft.

“The one thing, why I am so confident that it won’t happen again is that Shane doesn’t have a history any of that type of thing,” She said emphatically. “I know that this scared the heck out of him. His entrance into the NFL could have been gone.”

Ray seems ready to get to work with the Broncos and has the talent and undoubtedly the confidence to play in the NFL. The obstacles appear to be behind him now. The task ahead is to simply prove himself to a talented defensive roster and then the opponents on the Broncos schedule in 2015.

“When my phone rang and I saw the area code number and I answered the phone, words couldn’t describe how happy and excited I was to come here and be part of such a great organization and begin my career here. I’m just so ready to start and whatever this team needs me to do I’m ready for it.”

Email Sam at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @SamCowhick.

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