BLOG: Outtakes from Ray Thomas-Ishman story

  • UMass offensive lineman Ray Thomas-Ishman, Sr. relaxes on the bench while the defense handles Old Dominion, Saturday at McGuirk Stadium.

  • UMass offensive lineman Ray Thomas-Ishman, Sr., left, battles Sean Carter, of Old Dominion, Saturday at McGuirk Stadium.

Published: 9/13/2017 11:06:46 PM

Sometimes the hardest part of writing a long feature is leaving anything out.

In my conversations with Ray Thomas-Ishman Sr., the UMass sophomore offensive lineman said a lot of interesting things.

For someone who is as young as he is (20), I was impressed by his wisdom, his maturity and his perspective.

People I talked to about him couldn’t wait to tell me how much they liked and admired him.

So I wanted to include here some of the quotes that didn’t make it into the story.

Anything in italics is me talkinging

— Matt Vautour

Thomas-Ishman on reward the faith of people who stuck with him:


“It feels 10 times better that I know that I’m here and that the people who had faith in me know that I’m here so they won’t give up on somebody. I rewarded their faith in me and hopefully the person they help after me, they won’t give up on because they remember me.

Thomas-Ishman on the good fortune of having talent:

If I didn’t have football, I probably wouldn’t be here. It makes me appreciate my gift. Don’t take too much for granted. Don’t complain about everything. I try not to complain about too much. I could have it worse.


Thomas Ishman on what he wants for his son:

“If he wants to play sports, it doesn’t matter what sport it is, I want him to be a freakier athlete than me. Whatever he want to do in life I want him to have his education. I want him to be able to do whatever. Education is everything. It’s the most important thing of all. That’s all I want my son to have. He doesn’t even have to play a sport. 

When I look at my son, I want to ground him with his education to know that I provided for him and I gave him what he needed. When he makes his decisions, I did everything I could to set him up for life.”


Thomas-Ishman on seeing a close friend go to jail:

“I saw somebody I call my brother, lose his life after one mistake. He got life without possibility of parole. You see somebody that you love gone that quick. He was only 20 and he got life. He’s encarcerated for the rest of his life. It’s so quick to get into trouble and its hard to get out.

I don’t want to live that life. I want people to think he’s a good football player or he’s a good kid. Or when I’m working, he does the best cement work in the city. I want to be known for something positive. 

When I see the little kids at the game calling to me  “Fifty-seven, fifty-seven, (his jersey number) I’m like ‘Dang, I’m somebody’s role model.” I try to watch everything I do. I ain’t perfect. I still make my little mistakes. But I try to own up to them more.”

Thomas-Ishman on his relationship with his son and his father:


“I don’t want my son to feel like I used to feel about my dad. I don’t have hard feelings for my dad. Who am I to judge? He had his little addiction problem with drugs. When I got in trouble he came from Pittsburgh to come to my court date. I knew there was love there. Drugs were just more powerful. He couldn’t help himself. I just say ‘Don’t lie to me.’”

Thomas-Ishman on not being too proud to get better:


Don’t ever be scared to learn from somebody. Even somebody that might be my back up. If they tell me something I’m going to take advantage of it.  He might not have the ability to do it, but he’s telling me and I can do it and he’s helping me keep my spot. Don’t ever be scared to take advise from somebody.


Thomas-Ishman on making his mom proud:

My mom and I bumped heads all the time. I’m like a male version of her. But through everything I put my mom through she stuck with me. She used to say. ‘You ain’t got no friends. At the end of the day it’s just me and you.’ I see the joy every time I go home. She want to brag and everything. All her kids are doing something successful. She’s got bragging rights that she raised us right. She’s feeling good.”

Thomas-Ishman on being away from his son:

It’s going to help. It’s a sacrifice so we can be good in the long run. When I see him I appreciate him more and when I’ve got to leave I know I have to leave for a reason.

Thomas-Ishman kept the the last bullet:

“I want to get a hole in it to put it on a chain.”


On why he doesn’t do much social media:  

“Social media makes you want things right now. I got to have these Jordans right now or this Rolex. You can buy it but you can’t afford it. You might have spent your bill money. That’s why I stay away from that stuff.

 Social media is a place for people to watch you and for you to get caught up.

If you want to get in touch with me, you’ve got my number. I’ve had my number since ninth grade. I don’t plan on switching it.”

Serene Thomas on her son getting on the right path:

“You can decide to live your life the right way or you can find yourself getting caught up in the streets.”

Serene Thomas is proud that Philly kids can look up to her son:

“A success story from a person who has lived the life you're living is different. When someone can tell you they've been through what you're going through and there you stand with a full scholarship keeping your academics up, you can push through. You can come out of the inner city. You don't have to be the next statistic.

UMass defensive lineman Charly Timite played with Thomas-Ishman in high school and UMass: 

“People back home look up to him. People hear his story and think if he can make it I can make it too. It’s an inspiration really.”


UMass coach Mark Whipple:

“He’s grown up. He’s come a long ways. He’s worked hard. He’s gained a lot of respect from everybody in the program. I’ve gotten a couple notes from people on campus. He’s a leader, a really good kid, doing the right thing. When you see the pride he has in things that he’s doing and the leadership he has a true sophomore.

He’s physical and he’s strong and he understands the game. Not many people come in here as a true freshmen and make an impact. He’s getting better and better every day.

We talk about this is what you’ve got to do to be special. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need help in all facets. He’s used those resources and gotten better.”

UMass offensive line coach Mike Foleyon Thomas-Ishman’s potential:

He’s down to 350 pounds into the 340s. When he came in he was almost 400 pounds. He was big, he was strong. He had good feet. Now his feet have even gotten quicker. He’s just a big man. His weight isn’t going to go too much lower. He’s at a weight where he can move well and do things.

He has an SEC body type and a mentality like that too. He has to keep honing his technique and his craft. Because of his focus and his mindset, he’ll keep climbing.

He can get a lot better. He’s still a young pup. He has a lot of room to get better. The sky is the limit for him.

He’s very receptive. He’s very coachable. They look at how hard he coaches himself and how hard he works. You hope the young guys and even some of the older guys are looking and saying that’s how it’s supposed to be done.”

Simon Gratz coach Erik Zipay:

“He started to see the bigger picture and how quickly things can be taken from you.

Look what he’s done and the background he’s come from. He’s excelling. He’s playing football. His grades are good. The coaches love him. I wouldn’t be surprised if in two or three years we see him playing on Sundays.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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