In Auburn's near-miss in the national championship game vs. his hometown team, the Florida State Seminoles, Ray's 50-yard touchdown catch was the biggest play of his college career. While the game didn’t finish the way Ray or his Auburn teammates wanted, the play was a huge moment for the receiver.
Melvin Ray heads to the end zone vs. Florida State.
While the memory is still fresh about the touchdown in Pasadena and the team's 34-31 loss in the BCS title game, Ray said the Tigers are using that as motivation to win the championship this season.
"It's behind me now, it's in the past,” Ray said. “Obviously, that game didn't come out the way we wanted it to come out, but it felt good to do that. The goal is just to get back (to the championship game), however that is. If I make a play or don't make a play, I just want to make sure we end up making it back."
Making major strides his first two seasons back on the field as a football player, Ray is one of a large group of talented players for Coach Dameyune Craig to work with at the wide receiver spots. Playing both an outside receiver role as well as seeing time in the slot position, Ray’s versatility could be important for the Tigers this year. With guys like Sammie Coates, D’haquille Williams, Ricardo Louis, Quan Bray, Marcus Davis and C.J. Uzomah all capable of making plays, Ray pointed out being able to move around the offense is important for him in terms of finding a way on the field.
"It's really exciting,” he said. “I'm glad Coach has built that trust and confidence and Coach knows that at any given moment, wherever he needs to put me, he has the trust that I can go in and execute and provide plays. He knows I can make plays and do my job, and just be a coachable player."
With only five catches for 108 yards and one touchdown last season, Ray is just scratching the surface of his potential at the position, something Craig is trying to him accomplish.
"Other than on the field, he's big on practicing like a professional, being coachable and making mistakes, but being able to be coachable through the mistakes and not making the same mistake twice,” Ray said.
“It's just within every player in their personality," he added. "Some players catch on on faster, some players you really have to sit down and talk to them, and he does that. He knows each character, each personality, and he is good about working on each person individually."
Part of an experienced group for the Tigers on both sides of the ball, Ray is looking for an increased role in the offense this season as the Tigers head into Saturday's season opener vs. Arkansas. Even if that doesn’t happen he said it won't change the way he will approach things every day in practice because being an older player means showing guys how to work to get the job done.
“I think I'm the second oldest guy on the team, if not the oldest, so just I am trying to bring a little leadership to the team on and off the field--practice like a professional," he said. "We have got a lot of returners so I am trying to compete with all the returners and also show these younger guys how we work in the system."
Ray and the Tigers, who have the day off on Monday, will return to practice on Tuesday to resume preparations for their opener. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.