There's no question that Mistral Raymond, the former USF defensive back and new Minnesota Viking is a great success story. During his two-year playing career with USF Raymond went from walk-on to starter and captain as a senior earning second-team All-BIG EAST honors after recording 56 tackles, 4.5 TFL, an INT and seven pass break-ups. Raymond hard work was rewarded when he was drafted by the Vikings in the 2011 draft. With the NFL lock-out going on USFN had the chance to talk with Raymond and catch up.
How's things been since you were drafted with the lock out going on?
"Everything's been going great. With the lock-out going on I'm taking the opportunity of having some free time to take a few classes and get closer to my degree," said Raymond. "I'll have about 3-4 classes left to finish it up.
"I'm just anxious to get up to Minnesota and get things started up there. Christian Ponder from Florida State who was drafted in the first has been setting up some private team work-outs with some of the skilled players and I've also been working out with some other local guys as well."
Were you on campus working out with some of your former teammates?
"Yeah I was and with the lockout anytime I can get around my former teammates for some field work it's always a good deal. It was me Jerome Murphy, and Danny Verpael, who's now a defensive back coach at Jacksonville University, was putting us through some drills.
How was it being on the field with Murphy again?'
"Well we've actually never been apart. Even as he's establishing himself with the Rams, we've always been in contact. This was the first time we've been on the field together since he left South Florida. To be able to get back on the field with him and work out and see how he's progressed as an athlete and pick his brain a little bit was great. It also brought back a lot of memories, and just felt great to be out there."
Did you get to throw with some of the current guys?
"Yeah, afterwards I was throwing the ball around with some of the current guys. We had B.J. throwing, Jaquez Jenkins out there and a few other guys so it was a real good to work out with those guys too."
How did B.J. look out there?
"B.J. looked real good physically and the one thing about B.J. is that I've seen progress in him from the moment he stepped on campus. I've seen him improve day in and day out both physically, mentally, and his maturity level. He looked real good out there and was throwing the ball very well. He also seems have a better grasp on everything and is real excited to get into the season and do some great things this year."
What were your impressions of the Bulls newest receiver Chris Dunkley?
"That was my first time I got to see him on the field and he seems like a very talented guy. He actually reminded me of Dontavia Bogan, just the way his body looks and the way he runs his routes and catches the ball away from his body. He kind of reminded me of a young Bogan and that's pretty impressive coming from me. I thought he looked great and was real quick coming in and out of his breaks and seemed like he had real good top end speed. He was doing a great job of extending away from his body and catching the ball with his finger tips. Physically he had a real good build and when he took his shirt off, he was all cut up looking and you can tell he's been working in the weight room and taking great care of his body and that's going to be a big thing in making the transition to college ball. I thought he had real good top end speed and when he went in and out of his breaks was able to change his speed during his routes and when he came out of his cuts showed a lot of acceleration. I think he's going to be a great asset to our offense for sure."
What did you think about working out on the new practice fields?
"That practice complex they got now is just incredible. There's no other way to describe it, they're simply beautiful. Every time I come on campus, just passing by the baseball fields, the softball fields and all the stuff they're putting up, speaks volumes for all the blood, sweat and tears that all the guys have put into the program over the years. I think the guys are really going to benefit from that and I feel great that I played a role with that and everyone else takes a lot of pride in what they doing. They're going to continue to grow and I'm really excited for everything that they're doing and the future of the program."
You mentioned that Danny Verpael was conducting the work out, what's your relationship with him like?
"Danny was here my first year and I have a great relationship with him and his brother T.J. I'm always at his brother T.J.'s house and his place his a hangout spot for a lot of the guys on the team and a lot of the former guys are always there and it's almost like a alumni hangout. It's like a sports house for all the former players and he has pictures of all of us all over us so it's a great spot, and a lot of the guys take advantage of it. I'm over there 3-4 times a week just hanging out and chilling with the guys. Me, Murphy, Mike Jenkins, Louis Gachette, Carlton Williams, Tyler Roberts, are always there. All the guys go there, Buie, George Selvie and a bunch of others are always there and it's a good spot and a good time for everybody to see each other."
What are your thought on the team most like heading back to Vero?
"The opportunity for them to go back to Vero is huge. It was tremendous for us last year with all that happened with the coaching change, it gave us the opportunity to get away from the entire world and get closer to each other. Every year you have a new team and you have to build that team and there's no better building experience than the guys getting down there and isolating themselves, bonding and finding out who they are and what they want out of the upcoming season. I talk with the guys and they're so far ahead then we were last year, they no what to expect and hopefully they'll take advantage of it."
With all your success, are you the king of Palmetto now?
"Yeah the king of Palmetto, that's funny. We're all equal but it does feel good to be that light for the people of Palmetto and be a role model. They actually call me the pride of Palmetto and it feels great to go home and feel all the love from everyone and I'm very fortunate to be in the position that I'm in and I feel blessed."
I know a lot depends on the lock-out, but are you going to come to any of the team's summer event?
"Most definitely, if I'm around I'm going to make it out there absolutely. You're going to see my face at the Sling and shoot, the Super Bull and everything that I can. I look forward to it and any way I can help the team I will. I think it's important for guys to come back around and build that tradition of coming around. It helps with recruiting to see a guy that's been there and done that and be successful first hand. It helped me to see guys like that and hopefully I can be one of those guys."
Do you think your leaving the program in good shape?
"Absolutely, but I don't see it as me leaving the program. I'm going to be that guy that's always coming around. Every time we're in the offseason you're going to see my face poking in and out. I've established a great relationship with the guys on the field and I'm always going to be in contact with them, so I'm not really leaving the program in my eyes. We have so many memories on the field, but most of my fondest come from off the field just being with my teammates. Once a Bull, always a Bull"