The Philadelphia Union selected Ray Gaddis with the 35th overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft where he went on to have a standout rookie season.
Gaddis (@raygaddis on Twitter) was a multiple award winner for the Mountaineers under head coach Marlon LeBlanc. He led the Mountaineers to two second-round NCAA Tournament appearances while playing in 73 career games. He was a third-team All-American in 2010. Named 2nd team All-Big East twice, and appeared on many preseason awards’ watch lists. He finished his career with 6 assists and 24 shots taken in 73 games and 6,687 minutes.
The Union selected Gaddis because of his work ethic, speed, toughness and ability to be in the right place at the right time on defense. He played most of his senior season at WVU injured.
“Ray is a little bit of a sleeper because I think he would have been on everybody’s radar except he played injured this year,” said Union head coach John Hackworth. “He’s one of the best right back prospects in the country but he was playing hurt and because of that his coach – who we know pretty well – played him at holding midfielder coming off an injury late in the season.
“I think that may have hurt his chances to be invited to the combine and being seen by some other teams, but he played right back at Reading a couple of years. He’s got tremendous upside so we’re pretty excited. We needed that depth in the back and we were fortunate Ray was still available.”
Gaddis began the regular season for the Union on the bench. Three weeks in to the season, Gaddis received his first start against the Columbus Crew.
“I felt like here is your chance,” Gaddis told us about his first start. “I basically talked to myself and was saying this is what you always dreamed of. Have fun.”
Gaddis played well in that game, but he had to adjust. “The biggest adjustment was the skill level and speed of play,” he said.
He credits Mountaineer soccer head coach Marlon Leblanc with preparing him to play in the MLS. “Coach LeBlanc prepared me playing against some of the best competition in the nation and by having competitive training sessions.”
What followed was a fine season that landed him on the Soccer by Ives MLS All-Rookie Team. He played in 18 games, starting 17 of them. He attempted two shots and had one assist.
He had fun and worked hard. Of the many memories he has of his first professional season, one moment stood out to him.
With the season over, Gaddis has his sights set on next year and getting better.
“This offseason,” he said, “I have been working on getting stronger as well watching a lot of film to work on my positioning on the field. I just feel I can get better in every aspect of my game.”
Also, Gaddis recently won the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Male Athlete of the Year.
“To win the NAACP Award is a tremendous honor,” Gaddis said. “To be considered as a role model — as well one of the top athletes — is an honor. It is truly a blessing, and it was great to receive the Award. Out of all the awards I have, this one is my favorite because it is such a prestigious honor for myself, as well for my family.”
2012 was a great year for Ray Gaddis. He graduated from West Virginia University and fulfilled a lifelong dream of playing professional soccer, was considered one of the best rookies in the MLS and won an NAACP Award. 2013 is primed to be even better.