Rayshaun Kizer on Love, Aggression, and Sensitivity
By: Mick Moninghoff
As the 2020 season approaches, Massachusetts Pirates Defensive Coordinator Rayshaun Kizer prepares for his first year as a Defensive Coordinator in the National Arena League. After getting his initial taste of coaching last season with the Bismarck Bucks in the Indoor Football League as their Defensive Coordinator, defensive backs and special teams coach, the five-time All-Arena League DB looked back on the coaches who made a lasting impression on him as he continues his journey in arena football.
“It’s more so about the love of the game,” Kizer said. “I love arena football with passion. It’s been good to me over the years and I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge of this game and I want to give it back to the upcoming stars,” he said.
Kizer, who in 2011 set an AFL single-season record with 16 interceptions while playing in Orlando said there were three coaches during various parts of his career who were able to bring the best out in him.
Kizer excelled in the outdoor game at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio. After being signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Jets in 2007 and then playing in the Canadian Football League with Montreal, Kizer landed with the Green Bay Blizzard in the AF2. As a rookie to the indoor game, Kizer admits he didn’t know much about arena football and that’s where Cedric Walker stepped in. He credits Walker with giving him the foundation to achieve success.
“Cedric Walker was a good mentor and coach. Since I was new to the game, he taught me a lot about how everything was broken down, so I have to give a lot of credit to him,” Kizer said.
Walker, who won an AFL title as a defensive back and later as an assistant coach, was also a mentor to Pirates Offensive Coordinator Reggie Gray when they two crossed paths in San Jose.
After intercepting 28 passes in two seasons with Orlando in 2010 and 2011, Kizer was back in the CFL. He returned to the Arena Football League with the Philadelphia Soul in 2012. In the next three seasons, he was challenged not only by opponents but also by his coach, Clint Dolezel.
“Clint Dolezel was a good one to learn from during my three years in Philadelphia. He taught me things from the offensive side. That made me understand the game a lot more. Clint is a Hall of Famer at quarterback so he got into my brain about the offensive side of things. He made me look at what the offense was trying to do to the defense, which made me understand the game a lot better. I just had a whole different mindset when I was in Philadelphia about understanding the game,” Kizer said.
In 2015, Kizer was assigned to Arizona and later traded to New Orleans, seeing the field in only four games. That same season he was traded to Los Angeles where he found rejuvenation picking off five passes over the next ten games. Kizer said a former National Football League offensive lineman, turned defensive coordinator, was the man who gave him “new life” in LA.
“Coach Walt Housman when I was out in LA was my defensive coordinator. He was really good for me too. I liked his style and we saw eye to eye on a lot of things. I had a tough year in 2015, I was traded a couple of times and he just embraced me took me under his wing and gave the chance to freelance in the secondary and on the defense so I appreciate him for that,” said Kizer
Those three coaches saw an eager rookie, an all-league performer, and a seasoned veteran with a passion for the game, so what will Kizer look for in his players as they take the field in 2020?
“I’m looking for aggressive players who are not scared to make plays,” Kizer said. “You can’t be scared to get beat in this league and take chances. That’s what made me who I was. I studied a lot of films. You have to study a lot of film in your downtime and I wasn’t scared to take chances and make plays. I tell my players we have to win the 50/50 balls. You’re going to be in position but what makes a great DB is making the play when you’re there. That’s what separates the DB’s in our league. That’s what I’m looking for, somebody who is going to work hard on and off the field, listen, be aggressive and take chances,” he added.
Some may say Kizer was more than successful as he finished his AFL career with 67 interceptions, which ranks third all-time. When asked what leads to success, the Euclid, Ohio native said, “Success is hard work and dedication. You have to dedicate yourself to this game on and off the field and listen. You have to be able to listen and take coaching. That’s one of the biggest things that I think is hard for a lot of players to accept; sometimes especially in today’s generation. You have to accept coaching. The coaches are yelling at you and trying to critique you. A lot of people get sensitive about that. It gets on their feelings, but as coaches, we’re trying to make you better. I had that a lot. Coach Dolezel was really tough on me and he wanted to bring the best out in me and he did bring the best out in me a lot of the time. You just have to be able to accept coaching, listen, and work hard on and off the field.”