Entering his third season as a professional soccer player, Ray Gaddis has already accomplished so much in a short amount of time. He was a two time all-Big East selection, and an All-American defender while playing for his alma mater of West Virginia University. He graduated with a multi-disciplinary degree from the school, with focuses on history and communication in the spring of 2011. And, later this month, the Indianapolis native is a possible candidate to represent the Philadelphia Union in this years’ MLS All-Star game.
Yet, with all these individual honors, awards, and achievements, it’s Gaddis’s selfless devotion to his team, community, and others in general that sets him apart from the rest.
Gaddis, a 2012, second round draft pick of the Union, is currently involved with several volunteer and advocacy projects. These include, but are not limited to childhood literacy, battered women and children through a program called “Path Ways”, and participating in a program that allows children suffering with Autism to learn and play the game of soccer.
He was even selected by Major League Soccer (MLS) to participate in an outreach event in January of 2013 where he, and other U.S. soccer stars (Alexi Lalas, Mia Hamm, and Cobi Jones to name a few) taught and played the sport with several survivors of the horrific 2012 Newtown school shooting in an event called “Soccer for Newtown.”
This all ties into a new campaign the soccer star is promoting called “inspiRAYtion.” The goal of the effort is to “inspire others to achieve their dreams in a positive manner.” Gaddis is a strong believer in the power of positivity, and attributes that as key to his current success, and his ability to improve going forward.
He also mentioned that playing in the Big East conference during his four years while wearing the old Gold and Blue for why he’s been able to make it on the professional level. “The league was the best in the country,” Gaddis spoke of WVU’s previous home for the school’s athletic program.
During his time in the program, he said that having to play top national programs like UConn, Louisville, and Notre Dame on a regular basis has only helped him in being able to compete with some of the best footballers in the world. “My most memorable game in college was when we beat UConn my senior year” said Gaddis. “Often times, we were able to compete with, and beat top ranked opponents.” At the time, UConn was ranked #1 nationally, and a highlight of the match was featured on Sports Center’s “top ten plays” list.
While deciding on where to play his college ball, Gaddis spoke highly of his alma mater’s campus atmosphere, saying “it felt like home.” He also mentioned that the program’s coach, Marlon LeBlanc, factored into Gaddis’s decision to leave the heart of Big Ten country to attend WVU.
Currently, Gaddis and the Union sit sixth in the Eastern Conference of MLS. They play the New York Red Bulls this evening (7:30PM; ESPN2) for a much-needed three points. Of what his team needs to do to push for a playoff spot, Gaddis said simply “we need to continue to stay focused.” He added “we just need to play our game, and take things week by week.”
The fans flocking to the 18,000+ seat PPL Park should give Gaddis and his team mates “home field” advantage in this crucial mid-week fixture. “In my three years with this team, there hasn’t been one game that wasn’t sold out,” said Gaddis.
He went on to add “while Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle all compete for having the top fan base out west, on the east coast it’s the Union fans that are the best.”
As far as whether Gaddis is selected to team MLS to play in an international exhibition against one of Europe’s top club sides, Bayern Munich, there is no doubt he will stay positive and humble no matter what happens. “It would mean a great deal to be selected, but I’m a team first guy.”