BRONCOS LB RAY RETURNING TO K.C. SEEKING RESPECT
Broncos linebacker returning to his hometown more mature on and o≠ the field
A mid a fully covered upper body of artwork, a large bold series of numbers on Shane Ray’s right forearm screams the loudest. Each tattoo has a special meaning, Ray said, but 5600 best encapsulates who he is and where he is going.
It represents the block he grew up on off 56th Street and College Avenue in the heart of Kansas City, Mo.’s 64130 ZIP code — an area known as the “Murder Factory.” That is Ray’s hood. He is proud of it. It led to him wearing jersey No. 56.
There aren’t many success stories that come out of that area. Ray beat the odds, even though anger and mischief defined his childhood.
“It’s what made me,” Ray said of his old neighborhood. “I wouldn’t be me without it. But I had to get out of there. I really don’t know what I would be doing if it wasn’t for football. It saved me.”
In his second season with the Broncos, his teammates and coaches say the outside linebacker’s biggest area of growth has been his maturity. He is emerging as the talented pass-rushing complement to Von Miller that the Broncos envisioned when they selected the former Missouri star in the first round of the 2015 draft. Now, he is seeking respect.
Sunday, he returns home to show the locals how far he has come as a player and a person. He was born in
Kansas City, but he is being molded in Denver. He will spend the weekend home with plans to visit family, friends and others who helped get him out of the Murder Factory.
It’s why Ray won’t ever hide his back artwork, a collage of tattoos captioned “The Town” with Kansas City’s biggest staples — Gates’ BBQ , the Kansas City Royals, Sporting K.C. and the Chiefs, his favorite team growing up. He has heard the disdain of Broncos fans about the tattoos, but he tells them to hear his story before they criticize.
Tuesdays usually are days off for the Denver players, who use them for recovery. Ray wasn’t listed on the injury report for Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t hurting. Still, he wasn’t about to take a rest day.
Ray and his mother, Sebrina Johnson, fought through rush-hour traffic Tuesday to arrive at the Denver Rescue Mission by 5 p.m. to drop off several boxes and containers of shoes. They launched the Shane’s Shoes program and Ray’s Awareness foundation on Monday to help low-income families in Denver and Kansas City. It’s the first two of many charitable initiatives mother and son want to plant and grow in the inner cities.
“When Shane was younger he used to say, ‘Mom, if I make it to the NFL, I’m going to give it back to the community. I’m going to do it in the hood,’ ” Johnson You can see it in his eyes. Some of the stuff I point out on film that didn’t used to bother him, now it bothers him. He really wants to be an elite player. He wants when you talk about defense, you have to bring up his name. He really wants that stardom.” Broncos star Von Miller, on teammate Shane Ray
kansas city, mo.» All along, the Broncos’ best hope of making it to the playoffs was to win their final two games and hope for a little help along the way.
But after Miami’s 34-31 overtime win against Buffalo on Saturday, that hope is now their only shot. The Broncos (8-6) must win at Kansas City on Christmas night and then at home against Oakland on New Year’s Day to have any chance of advancing to the postseason as the No. 6 seed in the AFC. Even with a pair of victories, the Broncos would still need help to earn that wild-card berth.
If the Broncos lose or tie at Kansas City, they will be eliminated from playoff contention — a sharp drop for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
The Broncos haven’t lost at Kansas City since 2010, but they’re only 3-13 at Arrowhead Stadium in December. This year, they face tougher odds in part because of injuries. Safety T.J. Ward (concussion), inside linebacker Brandon Marshall (hamstring) and tight ends A.J. Derby and Virgil Green (both concussions) won’t play Sunday against the Chiefs.
Broncos outside linebacker Shane Ray sacks Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during last Sunday’s game in Denver. Ray, a former Missouri star who was a first-round pick in the 2015 draft, has 11 sacks in his NFL career — including seven this season. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post
DeMarcus Ware says of teammate Shane Ray, above: “He’s playing every day with a little bit more brute force.” John Leyba, The Denver Post