Kalif Raymond has career-highs of 33 catches, 379 yards and two touchdowns for the Detroit Lions this fall. He sat down to answer some questions from the Free Press this week:
This week is My Cleats, My Cause across the NFL. You picked youth health and wellness for cause. Wellness, especially mental wellness, has been in the news this week, so can you explain why that’s so important to you.
It’s health and wellness, but (my charity is) Big Brothers Big Sisters. I did it in college. In college they all paired us with a little one from the local community and we went there and these kids were just so bright. The little that I had, Jean Carlo, he taught himself piano. He was a child, but he took care of his siblings so well. Very, very smart, like high on grades, and I was just like, if you’re just surrounded with just a little bit of help, he had such a bright future. It was really awesome for us being there.
We were only able to be there for an hour one day a week, so we’d give as much as we could with an hour one day a week, but it’s also hard to keep that stuff up. The rest of the week is kind of fair game, and I was like, man, I can’t imagine a kid this bright, who taught himself how to play piano, he was so tech savvy, and I was like, I don’t know what this hour is doing, but even this little bit of time, I can only imagine if there was that much more invested into him, what he could do. That weighed heavy on me then and I was just like, first time doing My Cause, My Cleats, just in remembrance of that.
That was going to be my next question, actually, was to tell me about an experience you had working with Big Brothers Big Sisters that made an impact on you. So how did that shape who you are now?
I’m a big brother as well. I got a ton of siblings. But it just shows you how valuable even a little bit of time is. And we would go, there’s other kids there, but it’s an hour of my day but who knows how much that hour for them is worth. I don’t know what he goes home to, cause his mom was working night and day just trying to provide for her family. I just don’t know what an hour could have done for him, or just for his mental, maybe perspective going into that week. His grades. Just the little stuff. When I went there, it was a bright spot of his week. He had so much to tell me and so many questions. I was in college, but just a little bit of guidance here or there and it just weighed heavy, especially having little brothers and sisters myself. Being able to be there for them is pretty cool, but also I think about how much of a blessing that is to be there for them, cause not everybody has a role model or big brother to kind of help mold them.
Were you able to stay in touch with him?
Yeah, yeah. I call him on his birthday every year. I still keep in contact. It’s been about six years now. And then I was training in Massachusetts two years ago. I was playing, but I wasn’t on a team at that time and I went to Massachusetts to train, I went to dinner with him a couple years ago.
I know they’re two separate things, the cause and the charity. But going back to mental health, as an athlete, what do you do to take care of your mental health?
I do a lot of meditation. A lot of meditation. That’s the first thing I do in the morning. I get up. I make my bed. That’s kind of another thing I saw from a Navy SEAL said he made his bed every morning, it’s like your first win of the day. So I make my bed every morning, I get to the facility and I meditate for 30 minutes to an hour. I do a lot of flow-tanking, too, just to get your mind right. You have a lot of stuff that’s bottled up in there that you don’t realize until you actually have a time to spend some time with your mind and things start wondering. It’s like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know I was still thinking about that stuff.’ So I do a lot of meditation, just kind of bring my mind, my body, my spirit at peace.
When I get a chance, I do a lot of reading, too. Not as much — I do most of my reading at the beginning of the season, but just even reading books like that to give yourself perspective, I think it’s huge. I honestly think it’s without a doubt the biggest part of any professional sport is the mental side of things. You carry a lot of weight, a lot of stress, a lot of attention, a lot of focus and just try to find a way to combat all that and then you still, on top of that, have to be the person you want to be when it’s just you looking at yourself in the mirror. So yeah, I think it’s huge.
All right. I’m going to deviate from questions, but since you mentioned reading, and it’s Christmas time, give me a good book suggestion that you would recommend to somebody looking for a book.
I’ve read like two or three times, “The Alchemist.” I love “The Alchemist.” It’s a really good book, just watching the man’s journey grow into becoming who he is. I think everybody’s so looking for the quick way to the top. He gained what he thought was a lot, in the grand scheme of things was relatively small. Lost it, and thought that was the end of the world. Kept working, looked up in a year, and a year’s time to him seemed like forever, and then he woke up it’s like, man, I have more than I even thought and I can go achieve my dreams and I thought I was at a stalemate. It’s not going to happen fast, but just give something enough time and dedication and eventually you’ll come to find treasure is what you’re looking for. So, good book. I love it.
Let me go back to one thing you said: What is flow-tanking?
It’s called a sensory deprivation tank. So basically get in a tank, we actually have a couple here. The water temperature’s supposed to be set at the same temperature as the body. It’s filled with salt so that way you float. It’s completely dark in the room. Some people like music, I like it just straight silent. Essentially, you lose feeling in your body, not because you’re just floating but the water’s the same as your body, so you’re supposed to lose sense of touch. You’re underwater with earplugs, so you’re supposed to lose sense of hearing. It’s completely black, so it’s sight. And it’s literally just you and your mind.
Your thoughts are racing, but after your thoughts race for a while – sometimes, I remember my first time they were racing for like an hour. And then eventually like after that hour, at 30 minutes of just absolute peace. My mind was quiet, I was tired of thinking and then my body just like – I think somebody else explained it, I think it’s the perfect analogy. Imagine having a web browser and you have 30 tabs up that you didn’t know were up. And then you just close some of the tabs, and now you have five tabs or maybe two tabs. Now your mind has one tab, it’s just like, now you can see it. It just allows you to focus on what you want.
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It’s a cool experience. It’s unique, though. It’s not for everybody cause depending on the size of the tank, you can maybe feel claustrophobic. I like bigger tanks. But yeah, it’s really good just to work through mental things, You have thoughts subconsciously running that you get to finally, like, ‘OK, I really don’t need to be thinking about that.’ And just focus.
How often do you do that?
As often as I can. During camp I try to do it every day. I try to get here like 30 minutes early and just spend 30 minutes in there. I’ve done it every day this week but today.
What was your experience with the Navy SEAL who told you to make your bed every day?
I actually saw it on, I want to say it was a video on YouTube. I remember going through camp, one, what kind of man do I want to be? And two, what kind of attention do I want to set for this year. It was a couple years ago, and he was like, man, whenever you’ve got to do anything, essentially do it now. But make your bed in the morning, you get your first win of the day. He was like no matter what happens today, you’re going to take losses everywhere, but when you come home, you’re going to be reminded, “I made my bed this morning.” Like, that’s your first challenge of yourself of the day, and you take your first win of the day. No matter what happens, you always come home to a win at the end of the day. I got a lot of respect for those guys.
All right, let me squeeze one football one in here. I like to ask versions of this question, but if you can catch a touchdown pass from one quarterback in NFL history and against one defensive back in NFL history, who’s throwing you the ball and who are you beating for the touchdown?
Oooh. You got to give me time. I watch a lot of football … I think I know who I want the DB — definitely Deion (Sanders). There’s a lot of picks, but seeing how Deion competed with Jerry, that’s a next-level matchup, so it would definitely have to be one-on-one with Deion. That’s Primetime right there.
QB throwing? This may take some time. I have two guys in my head right now.
You can catch two on Deion.
Um …. I want to see definitely would like to get one from Peyton (Manning). When I got to Denver, it was the year he left so it’d be cool because I got to hear (about) that experience. And then I want to say, my first NFL catch was from Eli (Manning). So yeah, I think that would be cool. I’ve had one from Eli — he doesn’t know that. He doesn’t know the was my first NFL catch, but I can literally go section section of that play. I can probably catch one from Eli, too. Eli and Peyton would be pretty awesome.