Logan • When Dax Raymond walked off the blue turf field at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22, 2015, he didn’t have any idea how long it would take to wear a Utah State football uniform again.
The freshman from Provo hadn’t played much, only four catches that season, but he would play more later.
Much later, as it turned out.
“I had no idea it was going to be near almost two years,” Raymond said. “It was frustrating. I went all spring, all summer, went to workouts expecting to have a big role on the team. Just like that, we decided it’s not the year.”
Raymond redshirted the entire 2016 season and only got back into game action last week in Utah State’s 51-13 victory over Idaho State. As the team’s starting tight end, and now a redshirt sophomore, Raymond caught three passes for 56 yards and instantly gave the Aggies a bona fide big receiving threat over the middle.
“At the beginning of last year, I had a little back injury, and we were debating whether we should have surgery or not,” Raymond said. “If I got surgery, which we decided to do, I would be out for the year.”
He also missed the season-opening loss to Wisconsin, but Raymond said that was separate from his back troubles that forced the redshirt issue.
Although Raymond’s career totals now are at only seven catches overall, Utah State coaches are very high on the 6-foot-5, 245-pound athlete who played high school ball at Timpview.
“The thing you see at first is just how athletic he is. He was a high school receiver, he was a quarterback at one point and he’s a guy that is just dynamic as far as running around — he’s really, really hard to cover,” Utah State tight ends coach Luke Wells said.
Wells, brother of head coach Matt Wells, said that Raymond’s versatility allows him to either line up right next to an offensive tackle at the line of scrimmage or start a play split farther toward the sideline.
Either way, it’s bound to be trouble for most defenses.
“He’s bigger and his size and speed causes a matchup problem. There’s a lot of times when he’s bigger and can out-physical them,” Luke Wells said. “But if it is a ’backer on him, a lot of time he’s more athletic than that guy.
“One of the things we’d like to do is get him the ball in space,” he added.
If the time between snaps was frustrating for Raymond, while getting his back fixed, at least he had some experience being patient when it comes to his football career.
After graduating from Timpview in 2013, Raymond served a two-year LDS Church mission in Russia — and not the part of Russia that many know at least something about.
Raymond was based in the area around Vladivostok, on Russia’s east coast. Japan lies just across the water, the China border is about 25 miles away and North Korea is only 50 miles away.
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“It was the best time of my life, I miss it every day,” Raymond said. “There’s no tourists at all where I was. I didn’t even serve, really, in Vladivostok, I served in the outskirts.
The strapping American missionary could easily be identified as an athlete, but explaining to the locals about football turned out to be a pretty tough hurdle.
“Usually, they would only understand rugby. I would say American football, they didn’t know that. I would say rugby and some of them would know what rugby was,” said Raymond, who is trying to keep his Russian language skills up while pursuing a degree in sociology.
“I’m holding on to it while I can. My brother served in Moscow and my sister is serving in the Ukraine, Russian-speaking [area],” he added. “My family’s got a little bit of Russian, so hopefully we can keep it up together.”
As for football, well, Raymond is just happy to be playing again.
“It brings back memories of playing recess, in elementary school — the same thing,” he said. “Football is football. If you can’t play, you miss it. If you can, you love it.”