University of Alabama defensive end Labryan Ray has suffered his fair share of injuries during his first three seasons in Tuscaloosa.
First, it was a foot injury that hampered him throughout his freshman campaign in 2017. Then, last season, the Madison, Ala. native suffered a lower leg injury in only the third game of the season against South Carolina that ultimately ended his junior year.
In 2018, the only season Ray has played in every game, where he recorded 39 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and two pass breakups.
Now, as he embarks on what could be his final season at the Capstone, barring an NFL decision at the end of the year, Ray is back to full health, showing off his skillset in the Crimson Tide's fall camp leading up to the Sept. 26 start date against Missouri.
“First, definitely, I am feeling better," Ray said in a Zoom meeting with the media on Wednesday afternoon. "I’m 100 percent now so it feels good to be back."
When the injury happened in Columbia, Ray had no clue it would put him on the sideline for the rest of season. But, he notes now that he is better because of it.
“At the time, I didn’t really know but it was a big learning experience for me," Ray said. "It’s something I definitely learned from, grew from and got better from, to be honest. It made me stronger.”
The defensive line was cause for concern last season in Ray's absence, only sacking opposing quarterbacks 32 times. Coach Nick Saban even addressed that position groups in his opening press conference when camp opened on Aug. 17.
"But we just have to get more physical at the line of scrimmage," Saban said.
Ray is ready to tackle that challenge head on as the leader of the guys in the trenches.
"Secondly, I think, Coach Saban is right. It starts up front with us," Ray said. "If we’re not physical, we can’t allow the people behind us to do our job. So, yeah, definitely we have to pick it up. Sacks are important to us, we have to be better. That’s what we strive for, to get the best out of reach other, the best version of ourselves. I think if we can get to that point, then everything else will take care of itself."
Crimson Tide senior offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, who also spoke to the media on Wednesday, shared his thoughts on how he has seen Ray progress.
“A great player, a great athlete and he’s a workhorse as well," Leatherwood said. "He comes to work every single day. I mean he primarily lines up against me so I’m getting best, I’m getting practice I’ve ever gotten in a long time because he’s back and stuff like that. But he’s doing great. I feel like he feels confident about his foot and stuff like that and he’s practicing really well."