Jimmy Raye bio entering 39th NFL season
Raye of Light Share

Jimmy Raye bio entering 39th NFL season

Raye played a pioneering role as an athlete and coach

Photo: Jimmy Raye with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jimmy Raye's pioneering football career spans a half-century as quarterback at Michigan State, an NFL assistant coach, offensive coordinator and NFL Senior Advisor. The 2015 season is Raye’s 39th in the league and second as an advisor to NFL Vice President of Operations Troy Vincent.

Raye began his coaching career at Michigan in 1971 and moved on to the NFL in 1977 after San Francisco 49ers head coach Ken Meyer heard him speak at a clinic. At the time, there were only three other black assistant coaches in the NFL.

Six years later Raye broke ground as one of the NFL’s first black coordinators in 1983 with the Los Angeles Rams under John Robinson. Eric Dickerson ran for an NFL record of 2,105 yards with Raye serving as the offensive coordinator in 1984.

Raye subsequently was widely considered a prime candidate as the NFL’s first black head coach when the media speculated in the 1980s. He wasn’t offered an opportunity, but he remained an influential coaching figure. Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, the first black coach to win a Super Bowl title, considered Raye a mentor and said he thought of Raye as he accepted the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the 2006 season.

Dungy wrote the Foreword to the book "Raye of Light," the story of the Michigan State Underground Railroad’s leading role in the integration of college football under progressive head coach Duffy Daugherty.

Raye was the South’s first black quarterback to win a national title as the Spartans’ starter in 1966, when Michigan State and Notre Dame played to a controversial 10-10 tie in the “Game of the Century.” Raye was recruited out of Fayetteville, N.C., in the segregated South. Among his teammates on the Underground Railroad were College Football Hall of Famers Bubba Smith, George Webster, Gene Washington and Clinton Jones.

Tyrone Willingham, a former head coach at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington that serves on the College Football Playoff committee, also considers Raye a mentor. Raye recruited Willingham out of Jacksonville, N.C., and coached him at Michigan State in the 1970s.

Raye’s son, Jimmy Raye III, is vice-president of football operations with the Indianapolis Colts.

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and Chargers.com. He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer, MLB.com, Rivals.com and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications

David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."