Wyatt Ray’s grandfather sang for presidents, broke shade boundaries and made Capitol Information a music business big. His aunt gained Grammys.

And whereas Nat King Cole has been useless for greater than 50 years and Natalie Cole died in 2015, Ray nonetheless feels a deep emotional bond with them.

“Typically, if I actually take heed to the lyrics, yeah I undoubtedly really feel that among the issues he’s saying apply on to my life,” mentioned Ray, a defensive finish/exterior linebacker who’s projected as a late-round choose within the NFL Draft in April. “Typically to only hear his voice, flip the music on and sort of shut my eyes and chill out, there’s a non secular connection there.”

When his aunt died on New 12 months’s Eve 2015, Ray stood in her dwelling in Los Angeles and thought of all of the issues he wished he’d requested her concerning the journey to greatness.

“He mentioned, ‘I simply need to be nice like (her),’” mentioned Ray’s mom, Casey Ray, who was solely three years previous when her father succumbed to lung most cancers. St. Patrick’s Day will mark his 100th birthday and his music has been present process a revival of late. “The Christmas Tune” was downloaded greater than ever in 2018, and quite a few tributes to Cole will probably be launched this 12 months.

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Ray chuckles when requested if he thinks his grandfather’s hit, “Straighten Up and Fly Proper,” is a message directed at him.

“Yeah, anytime I stand up within the morning and also you stand up prefer it’s simply one other day … typically it’s important to straighten up and go to work,” Ray mentioned.

The trail to being unforgettable just isn’t simple.

(Picture by Terry Fincher/Mirrorpix/Getty Photos)

Ray’s late-round projection is inauspicious, however he believes that greatness is a part of his very soul, handed down by his household within the type of some fantastic genetic mutation.

“I undoubtedly really feel that means,” Ray mentioned. “There’s one thing in me that desires to be nice.”

As Buffalo Payments defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier mentioned when instructed of Ray’s lineage, “He’s royalty.”

Cole endured indignities all through his profession, together with threats upon him and his household after transferring to Los Angeles.

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His life is now the topic of a play, “Lights Out,” starring actor Dulé Hill at The Geffen Playhouse Theater in Los Angeles.

“There’s a lot extra to the person than his songs,” mentioned Hill, who just lately completed his run taking part in Cole on the Geffen. “What’s it wish to have your canine poisoned simply since you need a spot for your loved ones? What’s it wish to have a bullet by your window simply since you need a protected place for your loved ones, a beautiful place for your loved ones? What’s it like going to your householders associations and have them discuss undesirables transferring into their neighborhood they usually’re speaking about you? Mr. Cole was so elegant, the best way he say and did this and that … however it price him to try this.”

Cole recorded a string of hits throughout his profession, together with “Smile,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Unforgettable.” He was additionally the primary black man to host his personal tv present and have become so standard that Robert F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and California Governor Pat Brown had been amongst a who’s who of entertainers and dignitaries who served as his pallbearers after he died of lung most cancers in 1965, at age 46.

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Natalie Cole’s profession took off within the 1970s, hitting excessive factors with the hit “This Will Be” and the famed interactive duet along with her father’s video recording of “Unforgettable.” She died on New 12 months’s Eve in 2015 of congestive coronary heart failure.

Wyatt Ray

Whereas the tales of his grandfather and aunt are plentiful, Ray has often tried to downplay the connection.

“It’s not one thing I like to speak about a lot. What am I speculated to say? ‘Hey, I’m the grandson of Nat King Cole,’” Ray mentioned. “I like that I’ve these folks in my household and I need to stay as much as that, however I need to make a reputation for myself.”

Ray has that probability now because the NFL Draft approaches in April. Ray sat down with FanSided to debate his grandfather and aunt’s legacy and the impression it has had on his life.

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