AUBURN, Ala. — When Rhett Lashlee referred to Melvin Ray as “old” during his post-practice press conference Thursday, he didn’t mean for it to be interpreted as a joke or criticism.
It’s just the truth.
“Melvin’s role is that he’s an older guy – literally and by class,” Lashlee said of the junior receiver, who will turn 25 on April 23. “He’s just old. It’s just an honest thing.”’
If anything, Lashlee views Ray’s age as a positive, since his maturity level is at a level far behind most members of the team. More importantly, Lashlee loves the Tallahassee, Fla., native’s versatility.
“We moved him around a lot last year,” the coach said. “He gives us some flexibility with all the things we do differently with the personnel. He can play a lot of different spots.”
The reason Ray’s Auburn career got off to a late start? Baseball got to him first. Drafted in the 33rd round of the 2008 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ray spent three years with the organization. He never cracked the majors, however, and returned to the gridiron in 2012, playing in all 12 of the Tigers’ games that season.
His career highlight came last year, as he reeled in a 50-yard touchdown from Nick Marshall in the BCS championship game, which extended Auburn’s lead to 14-3 a little over a minute into the second quarter.
What his role will be going forward is a bit murky. With the addition of D’haquille Williams and Stanton Truitt this spring, the receiving corps is deeper than ever. Regardless, Lashlee is sure Ray will find a way to contribute next season.
“He makes you feel good, too, that if someone went down and it’s even a position he’s not playing you could move him there and he’s be able to plug in and play,” Lashlee said. “Melvin will have a role and he’ll help us win.”