TAMPA -- Mistral Raymond doesn’t get intimidated.
Put him in a pressure situation, and he likes to believe it motivates him to do his best.
So with a Who’s Who of NFL representatives looking on at the University of South Florida’s Pro Day, the defensive back from Palmetto turned in a performance he hopes will get him closer to the NFL.
Among those watching the workouts were NFL head coaches Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Lovie Smith from the Chicago Bears.
Easing any pressure for Raymond is that he already has private workouts scheduled with New England, Chicago and the Minnesota Vikings.
“There were representatives from all 32 NFL teams so that’s good for the USF program. It shows we are turning out good players,” Raymond said. “It was exciting. From the moment I walked into the locker room and saw all the guys who were there, I was excited. We had been separated for a long time.”
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Raymond has been projected by NFL teams as a cornerback or safety while some have called him a hybrid defensive back who can fill either position.
“I see myself as a cornerback. It is the position I love the most, but I will play anywhere to help a team,” Raymond said. “The three teams I have private workouts scheduled with are all talking about me playing corner. They all play relatively the same defense using Cover 2 schemes, which is an ideal system for me with my size and length.”
Raymond has been in almost daily touch with Ray Woodie, his former coach at Palmetto High who is an assistant at Western Kentucky.
Woodie said he has gotten a lot of calls from NFL teams regarding Raymond, asking about his character and ability to play cornerback at the next level. From what he has heard, Raymond did what he had to do, turning in close to a 4.5-second 40-yard dash in windy conditions.
The NFL has what they call target numbers. If a player matches them, he is considered a prospect worthy of further evaluation. The “worthy” time for a cornerback in the 40-dash is 4.55 seconds.
“They said with his size if he could run a 4.5 40-yard dash it would be very good for him,” Woodie said from Bowling Green, Ky. “It would put him in the mold of a big corner who could cover different types of receivers. They know he is a very smart person because he scored very high on the Wonderlic test.”
The Patriots will visit Tampa to work out Raymond at the end of the month. He has visits scheduled April 5 and 6 in Minnesota and April 7 and 8 in Chicago.
“Those teams just reached out for me,” Raymond said. “Today after the workouts I spoke with representatives from numerous teams. The Jets gave me a personality test and I talked to the Colts, the Falcons, the Titans and the Bengals. I might get some other private workouts. We will see.”
Raymond thought the wind at USF provided ideal testing conditions for the teams particularly interested in him, especially Chicago and Minnesota, though the latter plays in a domed stadium.
He didn’t think not being invited to the NFL combine hurt him.
“I didn’t feel any special pressure because of that. Anytime you come out and perform or play you want to do well and that’s how I felt today,” Raymond said. “I want to show an NFL team that I can help them and I believed I did that. I talked to (USF) coach (Skip) Holtz after the workouts and he said he heard a lot of good things about me.”
Also working out Thursday at his Pro Day was Joe Hills, another Palmetto High grad who played at Tennessee State in Nashville.
Hills had a good day, particularly for a 6-4, 218-pound receiver. He turned in a 39-inch vertical leap, significantly above the 36-inch “target” height for receivers and did a 10-10 broad jump (10-feet even is target distance for receivers) while running a 4.5 40-yard dash.
“Those two guys have a good shot at getting drafted, and if they are not they are certainly going to get invited to an NFL camp,” Woodie said.