Kalif Raymond’s performance in the Tennessee Titans’ 31-30 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday might have been surprising to some.
Not to Raymond.
The 5-foot-8, 182-pound wide receiver led the Titans with 118 yards on three receptions, including two catches for more than 40 yards. The preparation for such a performance, Raymond explained, all started with equipment manager, Matt Thompson, who often throws passes to him before each practice.
“You never know when your opportunity is going to come, so you have to be able to capitalize on it,” Raymond said. “A big part of the reason I was able to capitalize on it is Matt Thompson. He has thrown me each of the passes I caught today probably 80 times at 6:30 in the morning this whole week.”
Each of Raymond’s long receptions on Sunday led to points.
On the Titans’ first possession of the game, quarterback Ryan Tannehill connected with Raymond for a 44-yard gain to set up one of Stephen Gostkowski’s career-high six field goals.
In the third quarter, Raymond hauled in the longest pass of his career. With the Titans trailing, Tannehill dropped a dime to Raymond up the seam for a 61-yard gain. Two plays later, running back Derrick Henry leaped into the end zone and gave the Titans a one-point lead, 25-24.
“That man [Tannehill] works,” Raymond said. “I tell you, I try to get in before him in the morning and leave later, and I never win. He puts enough work in to make those throws. I was happy to be on the receiving end.”
Raymond became the first Titans receiver to go over 100 yards receiving on three or fewer receptions since Dec. 5, 2004, when Drew Bennett had 124 yards on three catches in a 51-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
“To go out there and contribute to a win, it makes the play a lot better,” Raymond said. “Definitely so glad to contribute to a win. To be a part of that, that’s awesome. That is what I cherish the most.”
Raymond showed flashes of the deep threat he can be last season in a small sample size. He played in eight regular season contests and caught nine passes for 170 yards, including a 52-yard reception. He added to that in the postseason with a 45-yard touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round.
In the offseason and into the season, it’s clear that Raymond’s efforts to develop as a receiver have paid off.
He knew he had a chance and he has taken every opportunity to capitalize on it.
“I think it’s more of the intent behind your work as opposed to just going out there to work,” Raymond said. “The intent to go out there and be ready, be prepared for those plays, that kind of change … that way, when your number is called and your team needs you to go out there, you make a play for the team.”