Kamar Aiken is, for all intents and purposes, an NFL journeyman. A former two-way standout at the college level, Aiken has battled to get to the pro ranks and already has four teams to his name. For the first time in his career though, the Florida native has some consistency in his football-life, slated to play his second straight season with the Baltimore Ravens. That isn’t all though. He’s also slated to start. Aiken is battling for a regular spot in the Ravens starting lineup, looking to play opposite veteran receiver Steve Smith. He’ll get his first chance to prove himself on Thursday night when Baltimore takes on the New Orleans Saints in the preseason opener. Here’s what you need to know about far-traveling wideout:
1. Aiken Is Listed as a Starter on the Ravens Preseason Depth Chart
Injuries seem to have opened up a road, metaphorical and literal, for Aiken. The fifth-year receiver was listed as one of two starting wide receivers, opposite Steve Smith, on the Baltimore Ravens’ first depth chart and he is expected to see a good chunk of time in the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints. Veteran receiver Marlon Brown is sidelined with a back injury while rookie Breshad Perriman, who the Ravens selected in the first round, has missed ten straight practices and has yet to actually compete in full-contact drills. That’s left the way wide open for Aiken and now it’s time for him to make the most of it. Aiken explained his approach this season to the Baltimore Sun earlier this year:
Whatever they need me to do, I’ll just do my job, if that’s special teams, if that’s being a starter, if that’s being the third receiver, second receive. I just want to be a little more fluent route runner. I want to be a little bit quicker. I feel like I’m explosive now, but I want to get that quickness.
Of course, it helps that Aiken, who’s signed to a $585,000 exclusive-rights tender, got a bit of foundation built under him with the Ravens last year. He didn’t post Pro Bowl numbers, by any means, but he hauled in 24 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns; all career bests.
2. He Was Signed By an Undrafted Free Agent by the Buffalo Bills in 2011
After his college career, Aiken was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bills in 2011. It was an unexpected wait for the two-way standout, who had hoped to hear his phone ring on draft weekend. He told ESPN:
I felt like I had a chance [to get drafted]. My thing was just to prepare myself so that, when I did get the chance, I could take advantage of it. Everything else you can’t control, so I just made sure I was on top of my game in terms of being in shape.
While it was a slightly different approach, Aiken couldn’t be too disappointed. He was, after all, still an NFL player. He was just as focused as ever to make an impression on the gridiron. He made his NFL debut against the New York Jets on November 27, 2011 and recorded one special teams tackle against the Denver Broncos on December 24.
3. Aiken Also Played With the Chicago Bears & New England Patriots
It has not been an easy road for Aiken, who was released six times in his first three seasons in the NFL. Following his short stint in Buffalo, Aiken signed with the Chicago Bears practice squad on October 9, 2012, replacing Harvey Unga. He was waived less than a month later, on November 6. On November 19, Aiken signed to the New England Patriots’ practice squad but was elevated to the active roster on December 22. His expectations, as per usual, were high and Aiken was determined to make sure this chance, with the 2012 playoffs on the horizon, did not slip through his football-catching fingers. He told ESPN:
I just kept pushing through it. This is somewhere I really wanted to be. I just have to stay prepared. This is my first playoffs. I’m just excited. … It’s great right now.
Aiken was released by the Patriots on August 26, 2013. He signed on to the Ravens practice squad that October but was elevated to the team’s active roster in December 2013.
4. He Played College Football at the University of Central Florida
Although he was recruited by a number of top-tier schools, most programs wanted Aiken to play safety at the college level. He wasn’t interested in that.
He wanted to be a wide receiver. So did UCF. It didn’t take long before Aiken committed. He joined the Knights as a starter in his freshman season and racked up a handful of impressive stats ahead of his senior year in 2010. Aiken started in 13 of 14 games during his final year at UCF and finished the season with 32 receptions for 486 yards and two touchdowns.
5. Aiken Grew up in Florida and Played Football at Chaminade-Madonna High School
Aiken got his first taste of football at a young age, learning the sport from his uncle when he was just six years old. There was no going after that. He played nearly every position at Chaminade-Madonna in Hollywood, Florida and earned Class 2A All-State honors as a defensive back during his senior season. Still, there was one very specific memory Aiken said he’ll always cherish from his four years in high school. He told ESPN:
Winning the state championship and just being able to play all the different sports — track, basketball and everything like that. In the state championship, we broke the record for most points put up in the game. That was big.
As a senior Aiken made 60 tackles and recorded five interceptions out of the secondary and also combined for 15 touchdowns and 1,000 yards rushing and receiving on the offensive side of the ball.
Editor’s note: Are you playing daily fantasy yet? Heavy’s partners at DraftKings are paying out $1 billion to daily fantasy players. Sign up with DraftKings promo code HEAVY and get a $600 deposit bonus with no season-long commitment.