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Mother's influence crucial for Ray

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Monday's misdemeanor citation for marijuana possession in Cooper County, Mo. was just the next of many hurdles Shane Ray has encountered during his journey to the NFL.

Growing up in a neighborhood known as Kansas City's murder factory, Ray wasn't close to his father. A former star at Missouri and a 1981 NFL draft pick, Wendell Ray passed on physical gifts to his son but also had an impact that Ray's mother, Sebrina Johnson, says "was kind of negative."

"It drove anger," Johnson said of the relationship between the two. "He played with anger. He played with, 'I want to tear down my dad's (legacy), everything he did at Mizzou.'

"When he let that go and started playing for himself and becoming a team player for his team, that's just when he exploded off the field and he was able to do the things that he did."

Ray leaned heavily upon Johnson, who was with her son when he arrived at Dove Valley for the first time as a Bronco on Friday afternoon, for support as he grew into a star. With the youngster now realizing his childhood dream, he looked back on his mother's influence Friday.

"My mom sacrificed everything for me at every point in time of my life, especially through high school and college, to make sure I was successful," Ray said. "Even with what happened Monday, my mom backed me, supported me and told me that we were going to face this and not run from it.

"I couldn't have asked for a better support system and of course I can repay my mother by showing her that I'll make better decisions and that I won't have an issue like that again."

The Broncos were confident enough that Monday's incident wouldn't be repeated to trade up in Thursday's first round, sending two fifth-round picks and interior OL Manny Ramirez to the Lions to move up five spots and nab the Missouri linebacker. Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway noted Ray's remorse and the team's comfort after speaking with him as big factors in that confidence.

You can count Johnson as a believer.

"How I'm so confident it won't happen again is that Shane doesn't have a history of any of that type of thing," she said. "And I know that it scared the heck out of him, because this could have been taken away.

"His entrance into the NFL could have been gone. ..."I know he doesn't want to go through that again."

A stressful week culminated in jubilation when Ray saw the Denver area code flashing on his phone Thursday night. Even after hearing his name called, posing with Roger Goodell on stage and celebrating with his family, the reality of the news didn't fully hit the young linebacker until Friday morning, when he enjoyed the moment with his mom.

"I woke up and I put on my jersey and my Broncos hat and I ran around my room and I said, 'I'm a Bronco!'" Ray said Friday afternoon. "It's a great feeling. It's amazing to finally be a pro and of course to be a part of such a great organization. Things couldn't have worked out better for me."

Now comes the next step, with rookie camp and offseason workouts as the first opportunities to incorporate himself into the Broncos' defense. Oh, and he has one more commitment to his mother: Getting his degree from Missouri.

"He has two classes left and he's promised me that he'll do that," Johnson said with a smile. "He owes me a degree."

Shane Ray arrived at Dove Valley for the first time as a Bronco after being selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. (All photos by Eric Lars Bakke)

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