DENNIS JOHNSON: Ramsey influenced by women

Derrick Ramsey is a name that's become very familiar to the state of Kentucky. Born in Hastings, Fla., he later moved to Camden, N.J. Ramsey came to the University of Kentucky with teammate Art Still to play quarterback for Fran Curci and also played basketball.

Ramsey, the first African-American to play quarterback at UK, led the 1977 team to a 10- 1 record and a No. 6 ranking. Ramsey went on to play nine years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders in 1981.

Now the Deputy Secretary of Commerce for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Ramsey still displays the hard work, leadership, discipline and passion for succeeding as he did when he was a successful athlete.

He took time to share some of his life experiences.

Question: Tell us about Derrick the kid?

Ramsey: Derrick the kid was a person who was very disciplined. I knew at 9 years old I wanted to be a NFL football player. The first book I ever bought and read was, ‘How to be a Quarterback' by Bart Starr. Everything I ate, drank, did was to get me to the point where I could play on Sundays.

Question: Who were the strong influences in your life that made you into the leader you became?

Ramsey: "The strongest influences in my life were women. Unlike most boys, my mom and school teachers made me into who I am. I can remember being tall when I was young and I was always ashamed and slumped down when I walked. My mom was a big woman and she and my second grade homeroom teacher would always yell at me and tell me to stand tall, pull back my shoulders and show off my big chest. They gave me the confidence to be confident in myself."

Question: What are your greatest strengths and how have you transformed them into your professional life now?

Ramsey: "I always considered myself to be a leader. As the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I use the same attitude I used on the field. I always wanted to win. Then it was winning on the field, now it's winning bids for jobs and making sure I'm serving the people of Kentucky well.

Question: What is your perspective on unethical behavior?

Ramsey: "People are going to be who they are going to be. When you hire a person, you expect him or her not just to be working to get a paycheck; you want he/she to give you an honest day work. If a person can't do that, then the truth will eventually come out."

Question: As a leader, how did you deal with conflict?

Ramsey: "When you deal with conflict, you can't try and avoid issues. There are always two sides to every story. You have to listen to both parties, then as a leader, you have to make a decision. It might not always be the right decision, but leaders are leaders because they have put themself in that position."

Question: Any words of wisdom for people transitioning into the professional world?

Ramsey: "My mom always told me that sports would be over one day. People in the business world won't give you a job just because what you did as an athlete or anything else. They want to know what you can offer them now. When I told my mom I got drafted she said, ‘Great you're a football player with no degree.' After you finish you last sporting event, most people still have 50-60 years to live. Make sure you do something you love to do. All the money in the world doesn't matter if you're not happy."
Editor's Note: Former Kentucky All-American defensive end Dennis Johnson is back at UK finishing his degree.

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