RALEIGH — JuMichael Ramos didn’t expect training camp to be such an emotional experience for him.
“It was probably one of those moments I’ll remember for my whole life,” he said. “I didn’t know it meant so much to me. I knew I wanted to get back, but I didn’t know how much it meant to me.
Then again, the NC State senior wide receiver is getting used to expectations changing rapidly.
Last year, Ramos was coming off a 34-catch season, during which he was named the most-improved player on the Wolfpack. He was expected to become the Wolfpack’s top receiving threat in 2016.
However, Ramos had been playing through pain for part of the 2015 season, and ended up needing two surgeries to repair a knee injury. In July, a month and a half before opening day, coach Dave Doeren ruled him out for the year, announcing that Ramos would redshirt.
“He’s been in the training room really an entire year,” Doeren said early in 2017’s preseason camp.
Adding in the pre-surgery treatment Ramos endured, it was actually longer than a year.
“Being out a whole year and a half, almost two years,” Ramos said. “You don’t know if you’re going to be able to come back. That’s probably the toughest thing.”
This year, Ramos returns to camp with far different expectations. The Wolfpack found two productive young receivers in Stephen Louis (35 catches for 678 yards) and Kelvin Harmon (27 cactches for 462 yards). Freshman C.J. Riley also shows promise, leaving Ramos as an afterthought on a receiving unit filled with weapons.
“It’s great to have him back in whatever capacity it ends up being,” Doeren said. “Because obviously, there’s good depth in that room.”
Expectations for Ramos may be low this year, but the senior knows how quickly they can change. For the time being, however, he’s just celebrating getting back to where he was before.
“It was a long journey, but I was able to get through it,” he said. “Just working it, figuring out what would be best for me, coming in off of a year and a half without practicing. Just trying to be smart. My journey has been long, but I wouldn’t change anything. I’ve been working hard to be able to play in training camp with all these guys.”
When he finally returned to the field, Ramos got the chance to test the knee at full speed.
“Being able to run my first one-on-one route,” Ramos said, “and not being able to feel my knee. It felt just like before. I knew—now I can play with these guys again and get back in the habit of what I need to do.”
That’s when the emotions came flooding in, once again defying expectations.
“Being able to catch the ball and act like part of the team again,” he said. “Afterward, I got really emotional. That just showed the passion I had for getting back here playing with the guys, being able to work and sweat with the team. Being able to grind.”
Doeren also noticed the passion that Ramos is showing since his return. Members of the senior class are taking turns addressing the team at night, discussing what it means to be a member of the Wolfpack. Ramos had his opportunity to speak the other night.
“It was very emotional,” Doeren said of the speech. “It’s been a hard journey for him—getting back to the field. And I’m not sure what he even thought he’d be able to do. He made three really nice catches in practice the other day. I think that was huge for him from a mental standpoint. It was great for our team to see him do that.”
Ramos is already preparing himself for the next big moment in his comeback—when he returns to the field for a game. At that point, however, he’ll be all business.
“I’m sure it’ll be very emotional for me,” he said. “But I’m going to keep all that inside and be ready to go out there and play. Be ready to do what I need to do and just act like things never happened.”
After that, as Ramos well knows, all he can do is expect the unexpected.