CB Dwight Lowery explodes from the starting blocks.
At an early age, Paul Raymond knew the odds were stacked against him.
"I understood the situation I was living in. The only way to get out of that was going to be through hard work and staying focused and staying away from certain things," the Jets' undrafted free agent wide receiver said at this weekend's rookie minicamp. "I knew that when I was young and that was something that stayed true throughout my years growing up."
At the tender age of 1, Paul's mother moved him to Miami from Haiti and they settled in the Liberty City section of the city close to Little Havana. By the time he was 10, his grandmother and cousin came over from Haiti as well and five people, including Paul's younger sister Saphia, lived under one roof.
Liberty City has a long history marred by poverty, limited opportunity, gangs, crimes and drugs. For every success story, there were multiple tragedies.
"It was tough because for every person who made it, there were about two or three who didn't. You saw it every day," Raymond said. "That was one of the biggest things I picked up. I saw the mistakes others made. That was another way I saw the right path."
Raymond didn't have to look very far for a role model. His mother held three jobs at one point — working as an airport screener, a restaurant clerk and a toll attendant — and stressed the importance of education to her son.
"I had coaches and teachers who also kept me straight," he said. "They talked to me whenever I needed someone to talk to and told me things that I needed to do to achieve what I wanted to."
At Miami Senior High School, Raymond was the only player to score a touchdown by rushing, passing, receiving and returning. He earned all-county honors, but there are a lot of good football players in South Florida and he didn't have scholarship options.
"There is so much talent where I'm from in Dade County, so that happens almost every year — the talent slips out," he said. "You see every college has kids from the South Florida area and I just happened to be one of them. Early on I did get looked at, but there is so much talent and there are just so many spots on each team."
Raymond's grades were solid, though, and Brown University showed interest. He committed to the northeastern Ivy institution, and as a freshman he finished third on the Bears with 16 receptions. Then adversity struck in year two.
"During my sophomore year, I struggled a little bit during camp," he said. " We had so many receivers that I just got lost in the shuffle a little bit. We had a great back and we ran the ball about 40 times a game."
Following that sophomore campaign, Raymond decided he wasn't going to give his legs an off-season rest. He turned to track and field and quickly developed into one of the Ivy League's top sprinters over the next two years, participating in 60-meter races indoors and the 100 and 4x100 relays outdoors.
"I just wanted to continue doing something competitive in the spring semester," he said. "I thought it would be a nice thing to do at the time and I really enjoyed it. I actually took the 60-meter indoor championship both years — the Ivy League championship. I wasn't as good in the 100 but started coming along as the season progressed."
Raymond came back strong on the football field, totaling 45 receptions during the 2006 campaign. Last season he averaged 17.8 yards on his 55 receptions and scored four touchdowns. Raymond, who was an All-Ivy second-team selection in '07, left Brown sixth in career receptions (116) and career receiving yards (1,800).
On the Ivy website, the 5'10", 170-pound Raymond is referred to as the man who "has long been recognized as the fastest man in the Ivy League" due to his 60-meter success in the Heptagonal Championships. But he also sprinted to help others out throughout his college experience, tutoring teammates in math.
"I guess I got to be well known so whenever someone was taking the class for the semester, they would come over and ask for some help and that just took off from there," he said. "I loved it because I plan on teaching at some point. I just like helping out. When I was a freshman, I needed tutors for some things so I'm always happy to help out."
An economics major who carries a 3.7 GPA, Raymond made the most of his college experience. He was a full-time student who also just happened to be a tremendous athlete.
"It was tough, but I think it was good but because you had to go above and beyond to get your work done and also participate. Most of the people at the school who were playing a sport were doing that because they loved it," he said. "They weren't there just because they were on scholarship, so you really had to work and love the sport to get through four years."
Raymond was timed at 4.4 in the 40 at his pro day and has posted 4.3 times in the past. Like all the fellow rookies here this weekend, he's learning and can't wait for things to come a little bit faster.
"I've talked to my mom a little bit but I got in so late yesterday that I didn't get a chance to," he said Saturday afternoon. "I talked to her before I came over and the first night and to a couple of friends. She told me just to relax and be myself."
Having already defied the odds, Paul Raymond has proceeded to his next challenge.