Mistral Raymond has a vested interest in how the current NFL labor strife concludes.
At stake could be a couple of million dollars for the Palmetto High graduate, who grew up in a family where financial struggles were a part of life.
A rookie salary cap could hurt Raymond. But if the NFL goes back to the 2010 rules, things would work out fine for the University of South Florida defensive back, selected with the 170th pick by the Minnesota Vikings.
Fendi Onobun, last year’s 170th pick (St. Louis Rams) signed a $1.9 million, four-year contract that came with a $129,000 signing bonus and a first-year salary of $449,000.
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Raymond hasn’t had time to worry about money. He worked diligently to turn himself into a draft pick amid adversity that might have taken a lesser person down.
Tragedy has been stalking Raymond since he first went to junior college. Last month, it reared its head again when his 25-year-old sister died. The cause of death, Raymond said, has not yet been determined.
“It hurt me tremendously, and I just have to remain strong and remember the life that she lived,” Raymond said. “She was 25 years old. I am not sure what is going on with that. It’s not my deal on how it happened. I am just putting it in the Lord’s hands, and I am going to continue to make her proud.”
The one thing Raymond laid out a plan, and he followed it.
When he was in Utah for the Dixie Gridiron Bowl and many players were leaving because they were unhappy with the arrangements, Raymond stayed and earned MVP honors.
Former Palmetto football coach Ray Woodie has helped clear his path, and Southeast head basketball coach Elliot Washington, a former NFL agent, put him in touch with Bratton.
Raymond has even stayed in touch with Jim Leavitt, his former head coach at USF and current San Francisco 49ers assis“Coach Leavitt has been a great mouthpiece for me,” Raymond said. “A lot of teams contacted him about me, and I am sure he had nothing but positive things to say. We have maintained a great relationship.”
If anyone has a right to have a public enemy list, it’s Raymond, going back to when gunmen burned down his mother’s house years ago, and former USF assistant Troy Douglas publicly ridiculed him in a severe botched attempt at humor.
But Raymond has never sought out revenge and has kept things in perspective by taking the high road.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.