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A Ray of Hope!

Arthur Ray Jr. was a highly prized recruit from Chicago, Illinois with the potential to be a star offensive lineman for the Michigan State Spartans.  However, two months after signing a National Letter of Intent to MSU, Ray was diagnosed with cancer. Although Ray was initially told he would never walk or play football again, he refused to give up on his dream. 

When asked how he kept such a positive attitude towards his diagnosis, Ray told, “It’s the love, all right here, in the heart. I love the game of football I can’t get it out. I had to keep fighting.  I couldn’t stop, even though it was rough.”

Ray underwent surgery in August 2007 to remove the bone tumor on his shin, and began chemotherapy treatments shortly after. He then enrolled in classes at MSU that fall and began working out again, only to be faced with another setback: a bone infection had formed where doctors had removed the cancerous tissue during his first surgery. Ray had to endure yet another surgery, but was guaranteed that he would be back at MSU in August and eventually be able to play football again if his x-rays turned out well.

After hearing that her son was going to be able to play football again, Mrs. Arthur Ray told Hondo when he visited them in Chicago at their home, “It was wonderful. I hugged him and I kissed him, and I said to him, ‘You were God-sent!’ I’ve always known that he would play football and look at him, he’s on his way.�� That moment, at that time, that doctor was like an angel, and I tell him to this day I could never express or even find a way to tell him thank you.”

MSU’s entire football coaching staff gave Ray and his family continual support throughout his diagnosis and treatment. Dan Roushar, MSU’s offensive line coach, was with Ray and his mother when Ray received the news of his cancer. Although this news deeply affected Roushar, Mrs. Arthur Ray said he held her hand through it all and has not left since. Ray also received direct phone calls continuously from members of the coaching staff to check up on him while he was in Chicago. Mrs. Arthur Ray told that the Michigan State coaches have been like fathers to Ray, and besides his father, grandfather and uncles, she wouldn’t want to trust him with any other group of men. When asked how he felt about the coaching staff, Ray stated that he wouldn’t trade them for anyone.

Although most colleges would have revoked the scholarship that had been awarded to Ray, MSU’s head football coach Mark Dantonio called Ray directly and assured him that his scholarship would be waiting for him whether he could play at MSU or not. Dantonio told Ray that once he signed the National Letter of Intent, he became a part of the Spartan family. Every true Spartan knows that at MSU we take care of our own. By not withdrawing Ray’s scholarship, Dantonio showed the entire nation what it really means to be a Spartan. 

The decision to keep Ray on scholarship not only benefited Ray and his family, but it also helped MSU’s recruiting process. Recruits saw how dedicated MSU coaches are to their players because of the care and loyalty they showed towards Ray. It also proved that MSU coaches are straightforward, honest, and would never go back on their word.

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Athletes can now be confident that if they commit to MSU, they will become a Spartan, and they will be taken care of under any circumstances.  The trust that MSU is able to offer its players gives it a huge advantage over other schools.  At MSU, athletes are given exactly what they are promised. When star recruits are deciding between different schools to attend, the trust MSU is able to offer will outshine anything else that the other schools have to give. 

After Ray’s two surgeries and numerous chemotherapy treatments, the medical expenses exceeded his insurance cap by nearly $50,000.  The Spartan Nation immediately embraced Ray’s family and the Arthur Ray Fund was created for his benefit.  People made countless donations across the nation, many of them strangers who Ray had never met. Even children emptied their piggy banks to help him. Ray said if he could ever pay them back he would, and when he returns to the field, he won’t let them down. 

Thousands of dollars have been raised for the Arthur Ray Fund and the contributions show no sign of slowing down. Mark Dantonio and his wife Becky hosted the Spartan Women’s Football Clinic on Saturday, April 18 and raised $16,865 ($8,000 from clinic registration, $8,350 from the silent auction and $515 in additional cash contributions). As Ray’s fund continues to increase, Mrs. Arthur Ray could not be more thankful for the money that has been donated to help her son.

“It brings tears to my eyes because it’s hard, it really is. When you’re loved and people have a good heart, it shows you the type of family, organization, people coming together, and that’s what we need. That has made a big difference, and like my son said, that’s something we’ll never forget, never. Whether he plays football or not, we’ll never forget.”

Although Spartan Nation cannot wait to see Ray play his first game at Spartan Stadium, it is unanimous that everyone would first like to see him walk to his classes. Football has strong roots at MSU, but the family bond shared between every Spartan runs deeper. Ray experienced this loyalty and now has a better understanding of what it means to be a true Spartan.

“It’s all about trust, it’s all about commitment, and it’s all about love. This is bigger than football. For people who I don’t know to just come and embrace me right away, that shows a great deal. That’s what being a Spartan is.”  

Ray Spent some time with recently and told us, "I will be walking without crutches soon and then Coach Mannie can start with my lower body as I look to the spring of 2010 to play some football." Certainly that is great news. We for one, just want to see him healthy and walking. At this point, football would just be a bonus!