Allen Park — Every individual has their own story.
When it comes to Kalif Raymond, the Lions’ well-traveled receiver has a rather intriguing chapter.
Back in 2018, after spending a brief amount of time as a practice squad member with the Tennessee Titans and New York Giants and being released twice, Raymond took a 24-day trip through Australia, Bali and Thailand during the offseason.
“I feel like I always want to learn about myself and see what I can handle, and there’s nothing like putting yourself in another country, a different environment and everything is foreign,” Raymond said after Tuesday’s training camp practice.
“You don’t know the language, you don’t know the culture, you don’t what to do, but being able to put yourself in that position, being able to figure (it) out is kind of a test to see what you can handle.”
During the overseas journey, Raymond spent eight days living in a hut in Bali. He stayed with a family who had built multiple shelters and he passed the time by meditating, reading and running. Above all, Raymond said he focused on clearing his mind and “setting my intentions of the kind of man I wanted to be.”
Yet, it was far from a tropical retreat on the beach. The hut was in the woods and Raymond remembers hearing all sorts of animals roaming around and making sounds whenever he’d lie down at night.
After his stop in Bali, Raymond spent eight days in Thailand, where he ended up making a four-hour trek through the mountains to get a Sak Yant tattoo done by a monk in a temple in the woods.
“It was actually a crazy experience, man. A very emotional experience, too,” he said. “I got there, and I remember them asking, ‘Hey, have you eaten?’ I’m was like, ‘Eating? I’m trying to make sure I got here alive. I haven’t taken a bite.’”
Raymond got the tattoo — the only one he has — on the back of his left shoulder. It’s an image of a guy named Hanuman, who Raymond said rose to a high spiritual level and symbolizes strength, courage and the good in humanity.
Oddly enough, Raymond said getting tattooed by a monk was something he put on his bucket list during his college days at Holy Cross.
More: Lions camp observations: Kalif Raymond makes case for roster spot
“It’s far-fetched, but I was really proud of myself because to say something and actually do it is one of the core principles I believe in — be a man of your word,” he said. “I was a man of my word to myself actually going out and doing it.”
While in Thailand, Raymond had an encounter with a homeless man who was missing a leg. He was at a market ordering duck soup when the man asked for some spare change. Raymond bought him a meal and noticed how the man was treated like a regular human being — “I’ve been to other countries before and generally when a homeless person walks in, it’s kind of like a barrier. They treat them slightly different,” he noted — and was welcomed inside, in an instance he called “eye-opening.”
“I just wanted to test myself and see what I can experience,” Raymond said. “I think the biggest thing I gained out that was probably perspective. I think that’s huge, especially in today’s world — perspective and kind of just seeing how different people react.”
Raymond has carried that perspective with him into training camp as he tries to earn a roster spot and stick with the Lions after bouncing around with four different teams his first five years in the league.
Despite playing in 35 career games and seeing much of his action as a return man, Raymond (5-foot-8, 182 pounds) has received his share of reps with the first-team offense, working both inside and outside at receiver in camp.
For his career, he has 19 receptions for 369 yards and a touchdown, with the bulk of those numbers coming the past two seasons with the Titans.
“Lif’s a stud. He embodies everything we’re about,” coach Dan Campbell said. “Anybody that has flexibility, versatility, position, flex, smart, on top of the ability that he has, it helps significantly. It helps A-Lynn (offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn) call the game. It helps us with matchups. He’s able to do a number of things. We put him at Z (receiver spot) yesterday. He’s been playing the F.
“He could be a trinket guy for us, do some different things maybe out of the backfield. But he’s also a returner. He just goes to work every day. Every day he’s nonstop. You look up there and he’s blocking guys in the run game, throwing his body around. He’s competitive as hell. I’m glad we got him.”
Even though Raymond appears well on his way to securing a job and could potentially play a big role on offense and special teams, he isn’t getting ahead of himself as he starts a new chapter with a new team.
“I just want to come out here and be in the present moment, be the best man that I can be each play, each down, each down,” said Raymond, who practices jiu-jitsu to improve his grip and conditioning. “When you get too far in the future — I’ll be walking out there on punt return and realize I’m thinking about a play behind me or I’m thinking about the punt return two plays from now, then you lose that play.
“For me, if I stay in the present moment and take care of right now, when I look back on my day, I’m like I had a pretty good day because I took every rep for what it was. There are goals that are set far in the future, but it’s hard to look at it right now. I’m hoping to look back on the season and be like, man, I actually checked off each one.”