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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Journey from couches to catches

Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel

Senior wide receiver Damion Ratley is second on the team in receiving yards with 228. 

In 2013, Damion Ratley, a retired high school football player at the time, watched the Alabama-Texas A&M game from his couch. Last Saturday, Ratley, now a senior wide receiver, played against Alabama, making a huge 32-yard catch on fourth-and-9 to keep the Aggies alive in the game.
A few months prior to watching the game on TV, Ratley was a dynamic receiver at Yoakum High School whose combination of height and speed posed grave dangers to opposing defenses. However, Ratley’s ability to be recruited by colleges was limited by the size of Yoakum and its remote location, 100 miles east of San Antonio.
“I went to a small high school,” Ratley said. “I didn’t go to any camps or anything and I never really got out there and got exposure or anything like that.”
Despite a strong career at Yoakum, Ratley ended his senior year with zero scholarship offers and elected to attend Blinn College’s Bryan campus as a student.
Living with his cousin in College Station, Ratley spent his weekends watching college football games. A big fan of the Aggies, Ratley wasn’t able to get a ticket to the 2013 A&M-Alabama game and settled with watching the game on TV from his couch.
After watching the game, Ratley realized how much he missed football. He called then Blinn College head football coach Keith Thomas and asked for a spot on the team.
Ratley had tried out for the team the summer before and made it, however, decided not to play because he said he just didn’t want to play anymore. The coach remembered Ratley from his tryout in the summer and gave him a spot on the team as a walk-on, even though he had not played football for over a year.
“I called them after the game and luckily they remembered me and gave me a fighting chance,” Ratley said.
Blinn didn’t run the ball all too often, since they had wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who was a fourth round pick of last year’s draft and Jake Hubenak, who is now a senior quarterback at Texas A&M.
Ratley finished the 2014 season with 1,197 yards and led the team in scoring with 20 touchdowns.
The enormous numbers earned Ratley an All-America honorable mention and a call from a Texas A&M coach who offered him a football scholarship.
“It was big time,” Ratley said. “I came up here [to the Texas A&M campus] the same day, it was exciting. I never thought I would get a phone call.”
Despite offers from West Virginia, Purdue and Texas Tech, Ratley said he never considered going to another school after he was offered to play at A&M.
Ratley was so ecstatic about his new school he said he would come to campus just to hang out even though he was not yet a student.
“It was right down the road, I used to come up here sometimes, just for the fun of it. It was cool, I loved it,” Ratley said.
Ratley enrolled early at Texas A&M, leaving Blinn after the 2014 fall semester and had a solid sophomore season with the Aggies, with 200 receiving yards and two touchdowns in six starts.
During his junior year, Ratley struggled to get consistent playing time, competing for snaps against a loaded receiving corps including Ricky Seals-Jones, Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk. Ratley finished his junior season with just two catches.
With Seals-Jones and Reynolds entering the NFL Draft, Ratley was primed for a big senior campaign.
In the offseason, Ratley focused in on his blocking, which used to be a major weakness for him. The extra work has paid off for Ratley, garnering the attention of A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin.
“He has become a completely unselfish player blocking on the perimeter,” Sumlin said. “All these long runs, he has been a dynamic blocker and being able to make plays downfield, things he did not do the last couple of years.”
Ratley said the increased attention and improvement on his blocking was just doing his job to help out the team.
“In order for the running backs to make plays we’ve got to be ready to block for them downfield,” Ratley said. “I’m blocking for Trayveon [Williams] just as he would for me if I were to get the ball and cut back. I’m going to do for my brothers as how I would hope they would do for me.”
Ratley’s talents pose a real threat to opposing defenses as it doesn’t allow them to bracket junior receiver Christian Kirk as they have to worry about Ratley as well. Ratley has already surpassed his career high in receiving yards this season with 228 yards.
Ratley has become a major component of the Texas A&M offensive success and Sumlin said he needs to continue to do so for the duration of the season.
“We need him to continue to be that guy and to continue to make big plays for us which he has done,” Sumlin said.
As for Ratley’s future after football, he said he doesn’t think about on that, he’s just focused on playing the game as long as he can.
“Obviously I went back and played, I wasn’t going to play out of high school and I went back because I loved the game too much to leave it,” Ratley said. “I’m going to play to the best of my ability until I can’t anymore.”

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  • Senior wide receiver Damion Ratley is averaging 22.8 yards per catch this season, which leads the Aggies. 

    Photo by Photo by C. Morgan Engel

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