COLUMBIA — Austin Ray is a tough matchup.
At 6 feet 6 inches and 235 pounds, Ray, a senior on the Rock Bridge football team, is exceptionally hard to contain as a receiver. But when his 6-foot-10 wingspan and 11-inch hands shoot through the air after the ball, it seems unfair.
Jefferson City (3-0)
Rock Bridge (3-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Rock Bridge Stadium
Ray, who has committed to play at The University of Mississippi next season, is the ideal tight end.
“He’s a prototypical tight end. He’s got the size, he’s a good athlete and he’s got good hands and good body control,” Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said. “He’s everything you’d ever want at that position.”
Many colleges agree with Ofodile’s assessment. Ray began receiving letters from Division I programs as early as his sophomore season and found a perfect fit in Ole Miss.
“I’m just excited to have a football scholarship. It was kind of my dream growing up to get a Division I scholarship,” Ray said. “To accomplish that was a nice feeling.”
It's clear to see Ray is excited about playing at Ole Miss, but there is also some mild disappointment about not playing at his first choice.
“You grow up liking the Tigers, hoping to get some interest from them. But I just wasn’t what they were looking for in a tight end,” he said.
Ray’s father echoed his son's comments about Missouri.
“He’s a huge Missouri fan and certainly would have liked to have had the opportunity to go there, however, every program is different. I guess one size doesn’t fit all,” Randy Ray said. “For selfish reasons, I had dreamed of watching him playing there." Randy Ray also grew up in Columbia.
Despite this, Ole Miss and the Southeastern Conference won't be a bad fit for his son, Randy Ray said.
Austin Ray’s style of play is a much better suited to the pro-style offense run by Ole Miss, giving him more opportunities to excel and increase his potential.
“He’s got a great ceiling," Ofodile said. "The biggest thing he’s got is the size and the frame and the athletic instinct. Those are the things you can’t teach. I think his potential is as good as anybody out there.”
Austin Ray’s early commitment allows him to focus primarily on this season at Rock Bridge. As captain, he's helped lead the Bruins to a 3-0 record, and will be a tough matchup in Friday night’s home game against undefeated Jefferson City.
Even though he won’t be playing football in Columbia next season, Austin Ray can’t wait for next year.
“It’s an opportunity that not a lot of people get, and I’m just thankful to have it,” Austin Ray said. “I did not particularly grow up wanting to go to Ole Miss, but you know, it’s great that I’m going there. It feels like a good fit.”