When the Upper Loudoun Youth Football Tigers play their A-League games in Purcellville, they feature a hulking presence on the sideline. At 6-foot-3 and much more than 200 pounds, Cory Raymer is an intimidating assistant coach.
But Raymer lends a lot more to his team than merely a presence to frighten opponents or someone to get water bottles. A University of Wisconsin athletic Hall of Fame member who boasts an 11-year NFL season, Raymer knows a lot about football.
His football career began in the cold backyards of Fond Du Lac, Wis., a small community in between Milwaukee and Green Bay.
“On Sunday’s we’d watch the Packers lose, and then go outside and play ourselves,” Raymer said. “I’ve probably been playing since I started walking.”
After playing flag football in elementary school and tackle in junior high, Raymer went to Goodrich High School, where he was a force on the gridiron. In addition to being recruited by Wisconsin, Raymer was named a USA-Today All-American honorable mention and made first team All-State as a defensive tackle.
“I had the opportunity to be surrounded by great coaches in junior high and high school,” Raymer said. “Through high school we always made a run at the state championship but we never got there. I got the opportunity to keep playing at Wisconsin.”
From high school to college
Raymer matriculated at the University of Wisconsin in 1991. Although he was recruited as a defensive lineman, Wisconsin was sorely lacking on their offensive line. The coaching staff moved Raymer to center, which would become his position from that point forward.
“I think it was the second or third game and that’s when I started playing center,” Raymer said. “I never stopped. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Wisconsin had a less than successful football team at the time and went 5-6 in each of Raymer’s first two seasons. But something clicked during the 1993 season and the Badgers went 9-1-1 in the regular season, defeating Michigan State 41-20 to clinch the Big 10 title at the Coca-Cola Classic game in Tokyo. Raymer and the Badgers were going to face UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
Despite the season’s victories, Raymer said most people still viewed Wisconsin as the underdogs, unable to beat UCLA in its home state. The Badgers showed up their detractors, defeating the Bruins 21-16.
In Raymer’s senior season, the Badgers posted a 7-3-1 record, qualifying them for another bowl game. This time, Wisconsin defeated Duke to win the Hall of Fame Bowl, the first time in school history Wisconsin would win back-to-back bowl games.
His senior season earned Raymer individual accolades. The center was named a unanimous All-American and was one of 12 nominees for the Lombardi Award, given to college football’s top lineman. In April of 1995, Raymer was selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins.
NFL and setbacks
Raymer played three games with the Redskins in 1995 and was amazed at the shift in the caliber of play.
“It’s a big step coming from high school to college, but from college to pro, it’s so huge you could consider taking an elevator,” Raymer said. “It’s faster, tougher, but you have to know a lot more too.”
Midway through his second season with the Redskins, Raymer suffered his first major setback. When attempting to avoid a car that pulled in front of him, Raymer swerved and his car rolled down a ditch. Raymer suffered a bruised kidney and a fractured vertebrae, tailbone and shoulder. He was out the rest of the season and worried about losing his spot on the team.
Raymer was able to regain his spot, playing six games in 1997 starting three. In 1998 and 1999, Raymer started all 16 games and playoff games. He was forced to sit out the entire 2000 season after tearing his ACL in one of the final practices of training camp, but started all 16 games in 2001.
“Whenever you give up your position, there’s other people that are there,” Raymer said. “You just don’t want to open that door.”
In 2002, Raymer joined former Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer in San Diego, where he played two seasons with the Chargers before returning to the Redskins as a free agent in 2004. He started 14 games in 2004, but lost his starting role in 2005. He would play the final two games of his pro career in 2005 with the Redskins.
Leaving the NFL was tough for Raymer, who was unprepared not only for the loss of a paycheck but the loss of playing football.
“You’re experiencing the trials and tribulations of the real world,” Raymer. “But you have to start that page, the next chapter.”
In 2005, Raymer completed his degree after, as he said, “forgetting to” when he was originally at Wisconsin. A Round Hill resident, he now works with a former Badger teammate doing compliance work for gas and oil companies.
On Aug. 31, Raymer was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Hall of Fame, allowing Raymer to reflect on his prolific career.
Now that his playing career is concluded, Raymer is focusing on transferring what he learned from football to his youth players now. For five years, Raymer has been coaching in the ULYFL and hopes the kids will get at least some of what he got out of the sport.
“Coaching is helping kids learn and be taught,” Raymer said. “It’s a great game. It took me everywhere I can imagine.”
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