AUBURN, Ala. — Melvin Ray's goal for this season is simple: He wants to be a stabilizing force for Auburn's receiving corps. Or to be a bit more specific, he just wants to be a leader.
"Practice like a professional," he said of his objective for the 2014 campaign. "We've got a lot of returners, so just trying to compete with all the returners, all the guys coming back and also show these younger guys how we work in the system."
Notice that Ray knows his place; as deep as the Tigers are at receiver — returning their top four players at the position in terms of receptions and yards along with the arrival of junior college star D'haquille Williams — the junior is merely hoping to find a few passes come his way. And he hopes it's a few more than last season, when he had only five receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown.
But his score was a memorable one, as his 50-yard touchdown in the BCS championship game put Auburn ahead of Florida State 14-3 with less than two minutes gone in the second quarter. Ray admitted the first touchdown of his Auburn career was a dream come true.
With a new season at hand, however, it's time to focus on the future.
"It's behind me now, it's in the past," Ray said. "Obviously that game didn't come out the way we wanted to come out, but it felt good to do that. The goal is just to get back, however that is. If I make a play or don't make a play, I just want to make sure we end up make it back."
Despite being many pegs down the totem pole when people think of the Tigers' pass-catchers, Ray isn't deterred. In his second year working with position coach Dameyune Craig, the Tallahassee, Fla., native believes the best is yet to come.
"There's almost no words for it. Coach Craig has changed almost every wide receiver in that room's life around, one way or another. We're a room full of different personalities, different characters and one thing he does well he coaches each player within their character," Ray said. "He knows how to approach each player with what they do best and how they act. He knows how to just talk to you like a human, on and off the field. He's a great coach. He turned my life around completely. I couldn't ask for a better wide receiver coach."
And though his statistics last year suggest otherwise, one teammate is expecting a noticeable uptick in Ray's production this fall. Trovon Reed knows it sounds crazy. But if anyone should know what Ray is capable of, it's Reed. He worked alongside Ray the past two seasons as a receiver. Since moving to corner this spring, Reed has matched up against Ray.
And what Reed has seen convinced him Ray is primed for a big year.
"He’s a big guy, a physical guy. He’s got a big body and he knows how to put his body in front of you and place the ball," Reed said. "He’s just a guy waiting on his turn, waiting on his break-out time. He’s going to shock the world."