Golden Valley alum Ravenell a Raven 

Cameron CJ Ravenell signs a deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Photo Courtesy of CJ Ravenell.

Multiple injuries, playing in Division 2 football and a flip of his college staff could not stop Golden Valley alumnus Cameron “CJ” Ravenell from reaching his dreams. 

Ravenell, a 6-foot, 6-inch, defensive end, signed a deal with the Baltimore Ravens on May 6. 

“It’s always been my main dream to play in the NFL and be a professional athlete,” Ravenell said in a phone interview. “There’s a lot of twists and turns when I came out of high school and I went to a Division 2 school. The odds are stacked against you when you’re at a lower level and a smaller school. Politics play a big part in people getting those opportunities, but for me, (going pro) was still something that was achievable.” 

The Raven attended multiple pro days and earned two rookie camp invites in his undrafted journey. Ravenell didn’t even make it to his second camp invite, which would’ve been with the Colts, as the Ravens pulled the trigger on the Santa Clarita native immediately after his camp. 

“I was just able to go out there, compete and perform at my highest level and I feel I was able to really impress the coaches,” Ravenell said. “They were impressed with my work ethic, my size and my frame. I think they see a lot of potential in me.”  

Ravenell graduated from Golden Valley in 2018, and played a key part in the Grizzlies reaching the CIF semifinals and championship game in his junior and senior seasons. 

Golden Valley coach Dan Kelley watched Ravenell work his way up through the lower levels before becoming a force on the varsity team’s defensive and offensive lines. 

“When (Ravenell) came up his junior year, you could tell he had all the tools,” Kelley said in a phone interview. “The way he approached the game, he was going to be a special player. He started for us as a junior on the varsity. We lost in the semis that year and he was on the 2017 team that lost in the CIF finals. He was one of the reasons why we were there. He was a force at left tackle for us and on the defensive line. I remember playing, I believe it was Crespi, and I saw him drive a defensive lineman off the field and onto the track.” 

The Grizzly defensive end racked up 79 tackles and 13 sacks in his senior season before heading off to Western Missouri football. The school wasn’t his first option but with a dream of playing football at the next level, he stayed the course and headed to St. Joseph, Missouri. 

“Coach Kelley and coach Mike Edwards over at Golden Valley, they’ve helped me tremendously to get to where I am right now,” Ravenell said. “Coach Kelley was always coming in for me all the time, looking to give me a chance … Missouri Western, that was the opportunity that coach Kelley had given me. He told me after my senior season, ‘I know things aren’t going for you recruiting wise how you like but there’s an opportunity for you to go to this camp and I think you should go and see what happens.’” 

His father, Ken Ravenell, also supported CJ, telling his son that the best things in life happen outside of your comfort zone. 

After redshirting his freshman season, Ravenell was a staple in the lineup and earned all-conference honors in each of his four years starting with the Griffons. 

Ravenell totaled 14.5 career sacks, five forced fumbles and 164 tackles. 

The defensive end had to deal with some nagging injuries but just wouldn’t stop working toward his ultimate goal of playing in the NFL. Ravenell suffered a slight meniscus tear as well as a high ankle sprain during his tenure with the Griffons. The future Baltimore signee kept his head high through rehabilitation and quickly worked his way back into playing shape, twice. 

Heading into his redshirt senior season, the defensive star watched his entire coaching staff get flipped following the team’s 5-6 record in 2022. Ravenell’s future looked unclear as a new coaching staff could turn the players, systems and program upside down. 

“They fired the whole staff and losing the whole staff kind of just puts you up in the air,” Ravenell said. “You start questioning everything and thinking, ‘Do I have a secure job to play?’” 

However, the new coaching staff, which included strength and conditioning coach Zach Fears, were well aware of Ravenell and saw his potential to go pro. The coaches reaffirmed what NFL scouts had previously told the defensive end, that if he put a little more weight, he’d be highly sought after. 

Ravenell wasted no time, and with the help of Fears, jumped from being 240 pounds in his redshirt junior year to 287 in his final season. 

“Coach Zach Fears, he put in so much time into helping me develop as an athlete and to not just get bigger but actually to get stronger,” Ravenell said. “It was crazy the way that he was able to transform my body in such a short amount of time.” 

Once the season concluded, Ravenell had nothing to do but work for his shot in the NFL. The Griffon defensive lineman had accomplished more than enough in the classroom, earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in sports fitness management. 

The training was daunting but the future Raven kept his head high through the unclear time. 

“I trained every day for months,” Ravenell said. “It was hard because some days you just keep training and you don’t really know what the end goal is. You don’t know where you’re gonna end at all and could just be wasting your time doing it. You just have to stay the course and you have to believe in yourself before anybody else can believe in you.” 

Ravenell was quick to thank his parents Ken and Kim Ravenell, sisters Katie and Courtney, coaches and other friends along the way of his football journey.  

“My dad just stayed consistent with everything,” CJ said. “He’s always been the one that’s kept me with the right mindset and always telling me right and wrong. My mom, too, she just does nothing but support me in every way possible. She never questioned anything that I did.” 

Kelley believes Ravenell’s story is long from over but his path of going Division 2 and heading into the pros is the perfect example that the journey is what you make of it and the work you put in. 

“I’ve always said that, ‘It’s what you make it,’” Kelley said. “If you get your chance to get stuff on film and you grow physically and mentally as an athlete and a student, anything’s possible. If you go down an NFL roster, a lot of the guys that are producing in the NFL come out of the smaller schools.” 

CJ still keeps up with his former coach and stores his time with Golden Valley as a motivator to push on. 

“That’s always been one of my main sources of motivation,” the Ravens rookie said. “I want to do it for (Golden Valley) because they believed in me so much. They put in so much time and effort into me when I was just a high school kid. I want to show that all the time they gave and put into me wasn’t for nothing.” 

The Western Missouri alumnus is excited to continue his football journey and feels while he’s put in an enormous amount of work to get to this point, it’s what he does from here on that will keep his dream alive for years to come. 

“I’m super excited, I can’t wait to get back out there,” CJ said. “I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. The real journey begins now, everything I’ve done up to this point doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what I do now. I’ve got to become the best version of myself, and with the staff and the Ravens organization supporting me, I don’t see how I couldn’t be successful. I just got to do everything that I know I’m capable of doing … I’m ecstatic and just can’t wait to go back, get things rolling and really find my place in that organization.” 

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