BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb football assistant head coach Kenny Ray will participate in the NFL's Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship later this month, spending part of 2016 training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals.
It is the second opportunity for Ray with the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship. He spent part of 2013 training camp with the Detroit Lions.
Ray, who hails from Birmingham, Ala., and played collegiately at Southern Miss, will depart for training camp on July 25 and is set to return in advance of Gardner-Webb's first practice on August 9.
The Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship is an annual program offered by the NFL Management Council and NFL Player Engagement. Designed as a vocational tool, the program offers gifted minority coaches with the opportunity to gain valuable experience during NFL teams' respective training camps and offseason workouts.
The NFL announced last August that a record 134 coaches participated in the fellowship during 2015 training camps. A total of 61 full-time coaches on NFL staffs in 2015 previously participated in the fellowship program – including current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (Browns, 2000), Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis (49ers, 1988 / Chiefs 1991) and former Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Lovie Smith (Cardinals 1988), who is now the head coach at the University of Illinois.
Ray will enter his fourth season at Gardner-Webb when the 2016 season begins and remains in charge of the offensive line in addition to his duties as assistant head coach.
He has worked hard to develop experience and depth with his line and should have his most seasoned group available this season. All-Big South Conference candidates Will Millikan (6-3, 301, So.), Caleb Smith (6-3, 328, R-Sr.) and David Sutton (6-2, 303, R-Sr.) headline a group of four starters returning from 2015. A total of seven offensive linemen on the preseason roster have starting experience at some point during their careers.
Ray's line cleared a path for Tyrell Maxwell's single-season, quarterback rushing mark in 2015 as GWU switched to a more run-heavy attack. In his first season with the 'Dogs, Ray oversaw a group that produced a 1,000-yard rusher (Juanne Blount), a 1,000-yard receiver (Kenny Cook) and a 2,000-yard passer (Lucas Beatty) for the first time since Gardner-Webb began playing football.
Ray came to Gardner-Webb after one season at North Greenville, which was his second of three stops alongside current GWU head coach Carroll McCray. The two also worked together on staff at Samford – which was Ray's first collegiate coaching stop.
In between, Ray has coached at Tennessee State, Howard, Alabama State, North Carolina A&T, Louisiana-Monroe and Graceland (Iowa).
As a player, Ray lettered at Southern Miss from 1992-1994 – helping the Golden Eagles to a pair of winning seasons. Southern Miss knocked off LSU, 20-18, on the road in Ray's final game with the squad. He was a teammate of future NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre during his college days.
Ray graduated from USM with a degree in business administration in 1995.
Gardner-Webb, with 21 starters returning, opens its 2016 campaign on Saturday, September 3 at Elon. Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm in GWU's first visit to Rhodes Stadium since 2001.