TAMPA — It was the second football game of the season; the field was soaked, thanks to a heavy downpour; and running in the mud and muck wasn’t easy.
On the second play from scrimmage, Sickles High School junior Ray Ray McCloud took a handoff and went left. Nothing there, so he switched directions and started right. Nothing there, so it was time for a new idea. He went back to his left, leaving defenders grasping at air, and wasn’t taken down for the next 64 yards.
McCloud is a running back for Sickles, a running back who ran for 232 yards in a rout of Durant High School, a team that was undefeated in last year’s regular season. After two games, McCloud has run for more than 200 yards twice. Last season, as a sophomore, McCloud ran for more than 100 yards in eight of 10 games.
Colleges — including many of the big name schools — are lining up to talk to McCloud, and some of them have little interest in him as a running back. McCloud is also an anchor in Sickles’ defensive backfield, as well as a special teams standout, returning kicks and punts. In the win over Durant, McCloud saved the shutout with a blocked field goal, leaping so high that the football banged off his chest.
McCloud has been offered scholarships by many schools, but for now, he’s going with Florida. Nothing is binding until he signs his letter of intent next year. He is spending plenty of time in Gainesville, but there are a lot of schools that aren’t ready to give up on the chance to get the 5-foot-9-inch player described by many as simply an athlete.
“It’s exciting to have a chance to go to Florida,” McCloud said after the Durant win. “I have had fun up there and am looking forward to it.”
One thing about McCloud is that he doesn’t have a set position. At the high school level, he is on the field during nearly every snap, something that won’t happen at the college level. But McCloud said he doesn’t care where he plays at the next level — but as long as he is at Sickles, he wants to be on the field as much as possible.
And coach Mike Gregory doesn’t have a problem with that at all. In the 28-point rout of Durant, Gregory had McCloud play both offense and defense to the last minute.
“I never think about pulling him, no matter what,” Gregory said. “Not in a big game. He wants to play.”
McCloud said he wasn’t looking at stacking up big numbers.
“I just like to play,” McCloud said. “I don’t care if I am a running back or defensive back, as long as I am on the field.”