Walking-on for the Tigers after playing minor league baseball, it took a while for Ray to get into the mix for the Auburn offense as he sat out the 2011 season before playing mostly special teams in 2012. Last year he caught just eight passes in 14 games, but one went for 50 yards and a touchdown in the BCS Championship Game.
That was just a sign of things to come for the mature receiver, however, and Saturday he showed just how much potential he’s got as a football player. Catching two passes for 77 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown and an acrobatic one-handed grab, Ray caught the attention of Auburn Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee for his play against the Razorbacks.
“Melvin Ray, obviously to me was the most impressive of our wideouts, believe it or not,” Lashlee said. “He can go make plays if you give him chances.”
That’s exactly what Ray did early in the third quarter when he went up high and made the one-handed catch on a throw from Nick Marshall. With better than average speed and good hands, Ray is a player who should make several more big plays before the year is done and he said that’s the goal of each and every one of the receivers.
“We focus on that every day in practice, making as many catches as we can,” Ray said. “The quarterback is not always going to make the best throw in the world so we try to have his back as much as we can. We are big bodies so we try to use our abilities to go up and get the football and help them out.”
It’s not just the things you see from Ray that make him a terrific player for the Tigers, but he can make as much or more impact without the ball in his hands. Whether it’s carrying out his assignment correctly or blocking for the running game, Ray is a player that has gained absolute trust from his offensive coordinator.
“The thing about Melvin that stands out is he was probably our most consistent receiver all fall camp,” Lashlee said. “I mean he came to work like a professional. I don’t remember any bad days he had. He just worked extremely hard. We have a lot of confidence. He knows a couple of positions so there is a lot of versatility with Melvin. He played a lot of spots last year.
“There’s no question the way he played--not only the two catches--but the way he played without the ball on film stood out to us. I would not be shocked at all if his role expanded. He definitely earned the respect and trust of us that we can trust him with more.”
Ray said whatever the coaches ask him to do, he is happy to oblige. "Whenever my number is called I just try to make a play and keep the drive alive," he said. "I just want to help this team win."