CLEVELAND — Undrafted rookie free agent Wyatt Ray is pursuing a football dream, but he has music royalty in his blood. Ray is the grandson of musician and civil rights trailblazer Nat King Cole, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
“The color barriers that he broke and all the racial issues he had to deal with traveling and playing in the south pushes me every day,” Ray said.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame director of curatorial affairs Nwaka Onwusa said, "Nat King Cole was mentally tough for so many reasons, but during the time he was coming out there were so many obstacles for African-Americans in any field. He overcame those obstacles by becoming the first African-American to host his own show.”
That show was "The Nat 'King' Cole Show," which debuted on network television in 1956.
While Ray never got the chance to meet his grandfather, who passed away in 1965, he feels connected to him through the melodies he left behind.
“I more so get motivated by his song and his music, just hearing his voice and knowing he was my granddad,” Ray said. His favorite songs are L-O-V-E, Straighten Up and Fly Right, and Sweet Lorraine.
While the Browns are deep on the defensive line, the Boston College product remains optimistic. He is encouraged by the fact that he not only possesses talent on the field but also he has the resiliency of a legend in his veins.
“When I am out here on the field, and I am breathing a little hard, I have to admit sometimes I have thought about that if my granddad could do it, I definitely have that blood in me, so it pushes me every day to keep on persevering and keep on going,” he said.