To talk to him, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud comes off as quiet, like literally, quiet.
“When we first got him, you couldn’t really hear him talk,” said 49ers tight end George Kittle. “He’s just quiet.”
49er head coach Kyle Shanahan joked that “Ray–Ray leads the league in mumbles, so sometimes you have to get him to not mumble.”
He may be soft spoken, but the value McCloud has added to the 49ers has been loud and clear. He’s dramatically improved San Francisco’s return game, been an important member of the offense and has added an extra element of competition to the wide receiver corps.
“My game kicks look right,” McCloud said.
Yes, friends, we’re talking about the gameday fit. McCloud’s are stylish, very much not quiet, and, frankly, awesome. And in the words of the quiet wide receiver, the looks are anything but.
“Sometimes I guess it looks louder on me than other people, but that’s who I am,” McCloud said. “That’s how I wear stuff.”
Wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has a different take.
“He crazy,” Aiyuk said. “They doing crazy. I think the main thing is he has fun with what he’s wearing. I don’t know. It’s a little different. He has fun with it. It’s Ray-Ray. It just shows who Ray-Ray is.”
When asked to expand upon “who Ray-Ray is,” Aiyuk and wide receiver Deebo Samuel had this to say:
“Just look at him,” Samuel said. “He’s just goofy. I like to play all the time. He think he right.”
“He think he fresh,” Aiyuk chimed in.
“Cleanest in the world,” Samuel said.
The 49ers signed McCloud in March, looking to step up their return game. It worked. McCloud ranked third in the NFL in yards per punt return and ninth in kickoff returns. He led the NFC with an average of 10.8 yards per punt return and an average of 23 yards on his kickoff runbacks.
“He’s been awesome for our team,” Shanahan said. “The way he plays just so fearlessly and the way he has fun out there, that’s how he is in person. You never know what you’re going to get. He’s an interesting dude that everyone enjoys, but football is so important to him. He goes about it his way, which he’s going to get there, maybe a different way than you’re used to, but by the time his assignments come, by the time the game comes, he’s a dude that you can count on because it’s important to him. He doesn’t want to let anyone down.”
McCloud had 14 receptions for 243 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 71-yard Samuel-esque touchdown on Dec. 24, 2022, while Samuel was still recovering from knee and ankle sprains.
“Kyle said, ‘You gotta do better than Deebo,'” McCloud said that day. “Me and Deebo, that’s like my brother, so it’s always a competitive thing. My number was called, and I wanted to make the play.”
The brother thing definitely comes through in Samuel’s comments above.
“I remember [McCloud’s] Chicago Bears outfit was just totally different, and I was like, ‘Alright,’ Kittle said. “…It’s definitely different. It’s a different type of fashion. I think he’s inspired the other wide receivers to do the same. Our gameday outfits have definitely been louder this year, but I love it.”
Not all of the wide receivers would agree they’ve been inspired. Both Aiyuk and Samuel gave emphatic, no hesitation “Nos” when asked.
“Deebo’s always had swag” said 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward. “Deebo’s got good swag and Ray-Ray’s got a good swag. [Aiyuk’s] got a pretty good swag, but he more laid back and more chill. He not as out, he don’t really pop as much as much, ’cause I don’t think he really try. I think he just laid back and chill, kind of like me, even though I dress good. I feel like I be looking good as hell on gameday too.”
McCloud credits his parents for first getting him into fashion. His father, Ray-Ray McCloud the II was in the music business, and his mother, Lisa McCloud, is from New York and grew up around it.
McCloud said that he’ll sometimes pick up an “essence” from a movie or television and build his look around that.
“I think he’s got a real good sense of style and fashion,” said Ward. “He does a good job of switching it up. I know one week he was looking like “Harry Potter.” That kind of threw me off a little. But I mean it was creative. It was creative and it was so different. And another week he came as Rodney from “Baby Boy” with Snoop Dogg.”
McCloud had the bike, et al for Rodney, and there’s a story there.
“I got this bike for him, like an old school Low Rider, which was in that picture at the flea market in San Jose,” said McCloud’s girlfriend, Quinessa Caylao-Do. “And when he first saw the bike, he was like, ‘Ooh, I really want to get one.’ So I hid it in my son’s closet for like two months and I just didn’t let him see it. And then it was coming close to Christmas and he was like, ‘I know you got me a bike for Christmas.’ He was like, ‘Can I see it now?’…I said, “You must be trying to wear it for outfit or something.” And then he started looking up these different pictures and then he was like, ‘Okay, I want to go with the Snoop Dogg look.'”
It takes confidence to pull off some of the looks, but McCloud has plenty of that and it works.
“I like the way I dress, so it’s just something that comes,” McCloud said. “My brothers get mad at me, because I’ll be like, ‘Come with me somewhere real quick’ and they’ll be like, ‘What do I got put on? Because you pull up to where you got clothes on. We don’t.’ But out, anywhere I go…you never know who you’ll run into.”
Honestly, this is good life advice.
Caylao-Do has a background in fashion and is creating her own brand and sometimes influences McCloud’s looks. Though he did make it very clear that “[i]t ain’t like she dresses me. I dress myself.”
Understood but the two give each other fashion advice, and there is a fair amount of friendly competition.
“…It’s a whole battle now, because now he feels like he dresses better than me,” said Caylao-Do. “He really likes to take pride these days that he does do his own outfit…Of course he would say he dresses better than me. And then of course I would say I dress better than him…I would say our tastes are different. We’re both out the box, but maybe sometimes he can give me a more girly edge, because I’m more into tomboy clothes. But I would still say I can still dress myself better.”
This competitive spirit is what has made McCloud successful in the NFL.
“He carries his own ball out there,” Shanahan said. “I didn’t realize it was his own ball until he threw it to me and it almost pulled my arms off because it weighs like 30 pounds, so he tricked me with that. He ties things to his hamstrings all the time. I still can’t figure out what they are. He’s got his own little routine that he does and now that we’ve been around him, it works for him and I just know we can count on him when we eventually get there.”
McCloud said it’s KBands tied to his hamstrings.
“I go against the grain,” McCloud said.
The 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card on Saturday, and the soft-spoken receiver with the loud sense of style will take that competitive confidence into the playoffs.
“It’s always, ‘I do that better. You don’t really know how to do this that well,'” said Caylao-Do. “It’s everywhere. Even with all of his family, friends, anyone that he knows, he can barely know them for maybe two days and he might throw out a little jab or a little competitive joke, because that’s just his sense of humor.”
Confidence. Style. The 49ers are hoping it’s a winning combination.