Mistral Raymond fulfilled a lifelong dream Saturday when the Vikings selected him in the sixth round of the NFL draft.
The South Florida defensive back had to face more than his share of hardship and tough times before getting to experience that moment.
Myslene Gabriel, Raymond's sister, was found dead in her apartment several weeks ago in Bradenton, Fla. Police reportedly question Gabriel's boyfriend, but no charges were filed, according to the Herald Tribune. The newspaper also reported that autopsy results were inconclusive over the cause of death.
Gabriel, who was pregnant, reportedly had trauma to her face. Her 2-year-old daughter was found unharmed in another room. Gabriel's death initially was ruled a homicide but later was listed as an "unclassified" death, according to the Herald Tribune.
Raymond said his dream of being selected in the NFL draft brought some "relief" to his family members Saturday.
"Having my family here with me, having them see my name come across the screen and seeing the excitement that it brought them, I think it was a relief for all of us," he said. "It helped me realize what type of position that the Lord has put me in. He has blessed me to be an outlet for my family. ... I'm very grateful to be in the position I'm in."
Raymond's road to the NFL was a difficult one. He began his career at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa and had several Division I offers. But his life changed in 2008 when tragedy struck his family in Florida while he was away at college.
A Molotov cocktail was thrown into his family's home, reportedly in retaliation for a shooting that involved his cousin, who didn't live there. The men also shot his older sister, Nanise, in the leg during the attack. The rest of his family escaped the fire, but their home was destroyed.
"It was situation where they just picked the wrong house," Raymond told the Chicago Tribune recently. "And while my mother and sisters were struggling to get out, the assailants or whatever you want to call them, started shooting. So they were forced to run back into the house while it was on fire."
Raymond decided to move back home to be closer to his family after that. He turned down several scholarship offers and instead chose to walk on at South Florida.
Raymond shared his story with Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman when he visited Winter Park before the draft.
"That story is just unbelievable," Spielman said. "I sat there for a half-hour just listening to that story. It tells you what kind of character that kid is."
Raymond started 15 games in his career at South Florida and was named second-team All-Big East as a senior. He is a versatile defensive back who played cornerback and safety.
Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Friday that he would like to add a veteran quarterback. Saturday, the NFL Network reported there is a high probability the team will acquire Donovan McNabb from Washington.
Leslie Frazier can't discuss McNabb, but the coach addressed if the Vikings would definitely add a veteran QB.
"Not necessarily," he said. "When you look at the free-agent market at quarterback, which we did prior to March 3 when we didn't know what was going to happen, you've got to determine is there a good fit for you? We were having those discussions, there had not been a draft at that point and we were talking about what the scenarios would be if we weren't able to get a quarterback in the draft.
"Now we have a quarterback, so we have to go back and revisit that and discuss whether or not it's to our advantage to bring in a veteran."