PATIENCE LEADS TO AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ONE ON ONE KICKING TRAINEE RAY EARLY
By: One On One Kicking Head Writer, Zach Harig
“Patience is a virtue,” is the saying followed by many but former Furman kicker and punter, Ray Early, has to be the biggest believer of that saying. Following a standout career at Furman – in which he kicked for four years and punted for two – it became time for Early to take his career to the next level, or so he thought.
After a senior season in which he made 20-of-23 field goal attempts, Early’s NFL stock was rising following his graduation. Despite being from a smaller school, Early was greeted by nearly every NFL team for his pro day, with a chance to prove his worth to a NFL franchise. However, there was someone else there to greet Early on his pro day – Mother Nature. Scouts flocked to Greenville, South Carolina to mainly watch offensive lineman, Dakota Dozier, a top prospect going into the draft. This attention for a small school specialist such as Early was exactly what was needed to show off his potential.
“I feel like I didn’t have the best pro day,” Early stated, “There were a lot of teams there but it was cold, rainy, and windy. I just punted about ten balls and the result wasn’t good,” Early added.
Following the letdown at the pro day, Early and those around him still saw the NFL potential and the chance of getting him signed into the league. As the draft came to a close, Early waited for the phone to ring for a NFL tryout – and it did, just not with the tryout that Early expected.
“The Kansas City Chiefs really liked me so they were talking to me,” said Early, “But they called me after the draft and said Cairo Santos was still available, so they took him first and I was out of that.”
Aside from the Chiefs, Early also landed a kicking workout with the Detroit Lions prior to the draft. However, their interest in Early went out the window following their seventh-round selection, kicker Nate Freese of Boston College.
Early still remembers the feeling following the draft and the passing of undrafted free-agent signings, “That feeling sucked. I thought for sure that I had the capability to kick in the NFL,” he continued, “But I had to keep my head up and keep getting better while hoping for a better opportunity.”
This past November, a mutual friend introduced Early to Adam Shreiner, a kicking instructor with One On One Kicking. After getting to know Shreiner, Early was referred to One On One founder, Mike McCabe and his pro-training sessions.
There, Early worked with several top college specialists along with NFL hopefuls.
“NFL training was really good, there were five or six other guys training and it was great to be around guys who can kick and punt like that. Coach McCabe gave us really good direction and I definitely learned a lot,” Early added.
The One On One Kicking NFL training program is a two to three month session that has had some recognizable names, including Kansas City Chiefs kicker, Cairo Santos and former seventh-round draft pick, Nate Freese. Aside from them, the One On One Pro Training Development series also trained great former college specialists such as former Tennessee punter Matt Darr, NFL combine invitee and Baylor punter, Spencer Roth, UAB kicker, Ty Long and Michigan State punter, Mike Sadler.
Early focused on getting better on his own following the disappointment, but the learning from Coach McCabe was a true benefit, “Coach McCabe pays a lot of attention to detail and is really big on the drillwork and drop-phase of the punt. I’ve gotten a lot better since working with him and I’ve learned a lot.”
While the NFL is on standby for Early, his professional career isn’t over by any means. In fact, Early landed a tryout with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League and certainly feels prepared for the opportunity. “I’ve been focusing more on punting,” Early stated on his readiness and all-around ability for the tryout, “I feel like my kicking has been there and there are no problems with kickoffs. I feel like I’m in a good spot right now and I’m still doing a lot of drill work.”
For Early, one thing has stuck out in his mind as for what made him better since his NFL dreams were crushed – for now, “My time with Coach McCabe got me a lot of experience,” he stated, looking back, “Bobby Cowan (another One On One Pro Development trainee) has been to Rams and Raiders’ camps and I worked with a lot of bigger school specialists, which was awesome.”
Patience is the name of the game after dreams are crushed. Just because something doesn’t happen right away, doesn’t mean it can’t happen at a later point, as is the case for Ray Early. One On One Kicking and Mike McCabe have helped prepare Early for his journey as he strives to continue his professional career.