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Football: Pittsburgh drafts UL’s Dotson, Tampa Bay takes Calais

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, April 25, 2020

UL running back/kicker returner Raymond Calais Jr. went to the NFL Draft Combine earlier this year. Ragin’ Cajuns offensive right guard Kevin Dotson did not.

But both found their way into the third and final day of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Dotson was selected Saturday in the fourth round, 135th overall, by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Three rounds later, in the seventh and final round, Calais went 245th overall to Tampa Bay.

Calais, a first team All-Sun Belt Conference kick returner from Cecilia High, played last January in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where he returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown.

A Plaquemine High product, Dotson started 52 consecutive games for the Cajuns including all 14 during a 2019 season in which UL went 11-3 with a LendingTree win over Miami (Ohio).

Related: Dad raised Cajuns NFL Draft prospect Dotson right way

More: UL’s Calais on the fast track heading into 2020 NFL Draft


A first team All-American selection by the Associated Press, USA TODAY, Sports Illustrated and Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder also played last January in the prestigious East-West Shrine Bowl in Florida.

“He’s a guy that really drives you off the ball,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said after the pick was made.

“Hey, I’ll tell you: In that phone booth the guy’s gonna be tough, destructive, as a drive blocker. Not a great puller, but … there’s a lot to like about Kevin Dotson.”

Kiper also hailed the Buccaneers’ selection of 5-8, 188-pound Calais, who as a senior averaged 7.6 yards per carry while rushing 117 times for 886 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“He can fly,” Kiper said of the multi-team high school state sprints track champ. “Three runs over 80 yards in his career.

“You love the burst from Calais. … He removes angles. The linebackers, defensive backs, have a tough time tracking him down and taking the proper angle (to) get him to the ground.”

Raymond Calais runs 80 yards for a touchdown in the first half of Thursday's football game between the Ragin' Cajuns and Arkansas State.

Raymond Calais runs 80 yards for a touchdown in the first half of Thursday’s football game between the Ragin’ Cajuns and Arkansas State. (Photo: Quentin Winstine/The Jonesboro Sun)

Calais ran a 4.42-seconds 40-yard dash at the Combine, impressing scouts and NFL decision-makers there with the third-best time among all running backs there.

But Dotson never got a chance to show his wares in Indianapolis.

UL coach Billy Napier, however, suggested being a Combine snub did not hamper NFL scouts from knowing all they needed to about him.

Ditto for Dotson, who coincidentally grew up a Steelers fan in the Baton Rouge area.

More: Cajuns’ Kevin Dotson sets high expectations for himself and team

“You don’t become a first team All-American … without having good film and having a reputation out there as a guy who can be a dominant player,” Napier said before the draft.

“I think the East-West Shrine Bowl helped me a bunch,” Dotson said, “being able to go against good competition.”

According to ESPN, Dotson was the first player drafted this year who did not attend the Combine.

“I saw the list when it came out for the Combine,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on ESPN. “I was shocked he was not on there.”

Jeremiah called Dotson “a powerful run blocker.”

“He gets underneath your pads and he finishes you,” Jeremiah said. “He puts you on the ground.”  

Dotson, like all of UL’s prospects, also missed out on having a formal Pro Day at the school due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sweeping the country.

Related: NFL Draft prep continues for Cajuns despite no Pro Day

More: With no Pro Day, UL receiver Bradley hopes for the best

But he and his agents flooded social media and the in-boxes of NFL personnel with videos of him working out and taking part in a private Pro Day.

One video posted on Twitter showed Dotson pushing a pickup in front of his family’s Baton Rouge-area home. Another showed him bench-pressing 34 reps of 225 pounds. Dotson also clocked a 4.8 40-yard dash time. 

The output was impressive and the exposure proved key. 

“I feel like maybe if people would have been there in person to see my drills they would have been a little more excited to see what I can do,” Dotson said before the draft. “But the stuff I put out and the things I filmed still caught their attention.”

More: What they’re saying about top UL NFL Draft prospects

More: Napier feels Cajuns Jacquet, Ralston have NFL shot

UL offensive Kevin Dotson (75), shown here during a 2019 game against Liberty, was selected on the third day of the 2020 NFL Draft.Buy Photo

UL offensive Kevin Dotson (75), shown here during a 2019 game against Liberty, was selected on the third day of the 2020 NFL Draft. (Photo: Michael O. Curley, Special to The Advertiser)

Dotson was the second Cajun selected in the 2020 draft.

Robert Hunt, who played right tackle next to Dotson and like Calais also was invited to the Combine, was the first. He went Friday night by the Miami Dolphins in the second round, 39th overall.

Kiper suggested that Dotson benefited from the way NFL scouts heavily scouted Hunt, one of his roommates throughout his stay at UL.

“He’s a tough, aggressive football player,” the ESPN analyst said of Dotson, “and rest assured that Robert Hunt drew people to Kevin Dotson.”

The same can be said for Calais, who along with juniors Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas has had huge holes opened behind the pair.

Now, Hunt imagines Calais will soon be running free on NFL fields.

If he does make it, it may be because he also help on special teams bringing back kicks and perhaps as a punt-team gunner like he was for the Cajuns.

“Raymond definitely can be in the league,” Hunt said recently.

“Most of them want me to play running back and of course special teams,” Calais said of the teams he spoke with before the draft. “My versatility is only going to help me in the long run.” 

The selection of Dotson and later Calais, preceded by that of Hunt, gave UL a school record-tying three draft picks for the first time since Chris Gannon, Mark Hall and Thomas King all went in 1989.

This year also marked the first time UL had two offensive linemen were taken in the same draft, and the second time in program history with a second-rounder and a fourth-rounder. The first was 2003, when cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman went to the Chicago Bears and cornerback Ike Taylor went to Pittsburgh.

The Sun Belt also produced a league record-tying seven picks: Hunt, Dotson and Calais; Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans (third round, Tennessee) and outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither (fourth round, Cincinnati); and Georgia Southern cornerback Kindle Vildor (fifth round, Chicago) and kicker Tyler Bass (sixth round, Buffalo).

Related: NFL use in eye of the beholder for UL’s Hunt, Dotson

More: Ragin’ Cajuns offensive lineman Hunt taken in NFL Draft

More: Reaction to the Miami Dolphins drafting UL’s Robert Hunt