Rayford Earns Spot on Colts Final Roster
INDIANAPOLIS - As NFL franchises whittle down their rosters and reach league-mandated requirements, the final days of the preseason can be a nerve-wracking time for any rookie. For former Utah Blaze defensive end Caesar Rayford, it was the beginning of the next chapter in his pro football career.
Rayford spent the past three and a half seasons terrorizing quarterbacks across the Arena Football League, but he'll be disrupting NFL offenses as a member of the Indianapolis Colts in 2013. As the time for final cuts came and went on Saturday, Rayford learned he had officially made the team's 53-man active roster.
"Everybody goes back to their home and hotel and you kind of just wait and see," Rayford explained. "If you get a call, that means they're going to be releasing you. Once everything was submitted and I didn't get a call, I just fell to my knees and thanked the lord because it was just such a blessing."
In many ways, the AFL is a developmental league in which players hone and polish their skills while working towards an opportunity at the next level. No team in the AFL has been as success in exporting its players as the Utah Blaze. Rayford is one of 10 former Blaze players to land on Utah's "Other League Exempt List" this past season, including seven players who have inked NFL or CFL deals within the last 12 months.
Saturday's events were a thrilling conclusion to a truly remarkable rookie preseason performance by Rayford, who racked up five sacks in four preseason games to lead the entire National Football League.
"It was definitely a flattering and humbling experience. All the attention, everybody's asking you questions and interviewing you, it was kind of surreal. But I guess with this job, when you do good things, everybody wants to talk to you."
The ability Rayford has shown in his short time with the Colts is nothing new to Blaze fans and Arena Football followers. After all, from 2010 until midway through the 2013 season, Rayford rewrote Utah's record books while setting a new standard for rushing the passer. Rayford played in 55 consecutive games for the Blaze and set all-time franchise marks by collecting 28.5 sacks, 33.5 tackles for loss, 10 forced fumble, eight fumble recoveries, and nine blocked kicks.
"Whatever position I have, I'm going to do all I can to help the Colts win ball games. I'm going to go out there and give my all in everything they ask of me. Every day, I ask myself, what can I do to get better? What can I do to become a better pro? What can I do to make those strides -
For Rayford, the next stride is earning playing time when Indianapolis takes on the Oakland Raiders in their season opener next Sunday.
"Right now, that's my goal. Getting to play in this first one. I'm going to take practice very hard this week and do all I can to make it to Sunday's game and be out there on the field."
Elsewhere around the NFL, former Blaze wideout Michael Preston enters his third season with the Tennessee Titans after making Saturday's cut. However, this is the first time since leaving Utah that Preston will open the NFL season on Tennessee's active 53-man roster. Preston spent his first two years on the Titans' practice squad after delivering 28 receptions for 332 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie with the Blaze in 2011.
"As the head coach of the Blaze, it is gratifying to see our players get their opportunity to shine on the NFL stage," said Ron James. "We will continue to recruit top level athletes for the 2014 AFL season and beyond. The Arena Football League truly gives football players around the country a chance to showcase their skills for the world to see."
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Arena Football League Stories from September 1, 2013
- Rayford Earns Spot on Colts Final Roster - Utah Blaze
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