Football player avoids gang culture to play at MSUM

Sophomore defensive back Jaylen Raye makes a tackle for the Dragons earlier this season. Raye finished with 29 solo tackles on the season.

Sophomore defensive back Jaylen Raye makes a tackle for the Dragons earlier this season. Raye finished with 29 solo tackles on the season.

Born in Long Beach, Calif., on Jan. 15, 1994, Jaylen Raye has lived a compelling life.
As a young boy he learned from his greatest idol that he did not have to participate in the gang life. His father, Jerry Raye, led by example in teaching his son that life can be lived in a productive manner.
“I looked up to my dad the most, because he grew up in the gang culture and changed his life around completely. That is when I learned I did not have to go down the same path,” Raye said.
Many fears struck Raye while growing up. His family had been involved in the gang lifestyle, and many friends and neighbors were affiliated. Through all adversity, knowing that at any moment he could be marked for death, Raye broke off the longtime curse that affected him and his family.
He was always a smart kid and learned quickly by past mistakes the family made. Having five brothers, three being older, Raye learned what he should and should not do.
He said he and his brothers would always fight with each other to help make each other tougher.
“My dad taught us all how to fight,” he said. “In my area there would be times when you would have to square up, and we were all taught to never back down.”
The story might have turned out differently during his freshman year at Mayfair High School in Cerritos, Calif. He got himself into some trouble, and his parents stepped in to make it clear they would not tolerate him going down the same evil path as many others.
“What happened at Mayfair was that I got snitched on for stealing someone’s iPod, but I never took it, so it was not fair that I got blamed for it. My parents were mad, though,” Raye said.
Soon after, Raye was informed he would be transferring to a private Christian school just down the street.
It was a hard transition considering the zero tolerance policy for misbehavior and disorderly conduct. Raye was used to an uncontrolled environment; switching to Valley Christian proved to be a challenge.
“I was mad that I had to leave Mayfair because that’s where all my brothers and close friends were at,” Raye said. “At the same time I could see why my parents made me move though. They only wanted the best of me, so I guess it was a good thing I transferred.”
As an incoming student in a new high school, Raye was forced to quickly decide what he was going to do. He was not a loud student. Instead he was surprisingly quiet and loved to keep to himself. There was not much on his mind throughout his high school career, except to graduate and go to college.
“At Valley I was not able to get into a whole lot of trouble because of the strict rules, so all I could do was focus hard on my schoolwork and do well on the football field,” Raye said.
It was soon after he began high school that his mother influenced him to want to become an accountant. With big dreams he hoped to be an accountant for any major Los Angeles sports team.
“I really like numbers; to me it’s like reading a children’s book,” Raye said. “Math has always been my favorite subject since high school.”
Aside from being an outstanding student, Raye was just as impressive on the football field as a running back and cornerback. As the starting running back and corner back for Valley’s varsity football team, Raye racked up big numbers. His only setback for not going Division 1 for college football was his small size.
“I felt like I had all the talent to go D-1, but I have always been small. I hate it. If I was only a couple of inches taller, I could have easily received many offers to play at a big time football powerhouse.”
He has his heart set to play corner because his favorite player in the NFL, Tyrann Mathieu, is a cornerback and has been his most influential player.
His opportunity came in 2012 when MSUM reached out to him to play under scholarship. His recruitment was short because time was running out. It did not take long for Raye to sign his National Letter of Intent.
Raye credits his parents for giving him the tools he needed to earn a scholarship to play football at MSUM. His family is the biggest influence in his success as a student athlete today.
Now in his sophomore year at MSUM, Raye has not looked back. He has no regrets about his past and feels thankful for his earlier experiences.
“All I can say is that I have been blessed to have my family there for me,” he said. “And God watching my back to make sure everything worked out.”
BY LE’WAYNE WRIGHT
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