LEADERSHIP PROFILE: RAY EDWARDS JR

The Sweet Science of Ray Edwards Jr

Written by Linda “Pearl” Fils-Aime

 

“Pearl throw punches at Bethany, and work on your jab. Three rounds!”, says Biggs.

Biggs is the owner of Biggs Boxing, and has been my trainer for the past two years.

(The bell rings for the third round)

“Last round!”, Biggs announces, as Ray Edwards Jr, a visiting fighter and his trainer walk in the gym towards the ring.

Ray Edwards Jr at ESPY

Ray Edwards Jr at ESPY

Ray Edwards Jr is a former NFL Defensive End turned professional boxer, with his sights set on becoming  the undisputed heavy weight champion of the world. After looking further into his story, I found his journey to be very interesting.

Here is the Sweet Science of Ray Edwards Jr. 

Ray Edwards Jr was born on January 1, 1986 in Cincinnati, OH. He grew up with his mother and older sister; his father was not present in the home. The family lived in the public housing projects of Cincinnati. Early on in life, Ray hung out in the streets, and began smoking and drinking with an older crowd. “I was going to school high in the 5th grade. I was way too young to be doing that kind of stuff, but that’s what happened.”

In the sixth grade, Ray began playing basketball for his school. Shortly after, he met two individuals that changed the path of his life, Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins. They became Ray’s mentors. “It felt like divine intervention for them to come into my life. Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins instilled in me that you can go a long way with education, but that there are no guarantees in athletics.”

While hanging out in the streets, Ray found that his peers were getting into trouble or going to jail.

“Seeing people going to jail, living check to check, and struggling around me, motivated me to want a better future, for myself and my family. Once I started playing football, I knew that the NFL was my ticket out; it became my dream. So I made a sacrifice to leave the streets, and dedicated my heart and all my energy to education and sports.”

The sacrifice paid off. Ray attended Woodward high school, graduating second in his class; amongst the top 1%. He also exceled in basketball and football.

COLLEGE YEARS

Ray attended Purdue University on an athletic scholarship, and started in 18 of 36 football games.  As a Defensive End, he recorded a total of 16 sacks and received many honors including All-Freshmen team choice by The Sporting News (2003), honorable mention All-Big Ten (2004) and semifinalist for the Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award (2005). After his third year at Purdue, Ray was drafted to the Minnesota Vikings.

ALNP: How did you stay focused during your college years?

Ray: I knew college was a stopping point. My main goal was to get into the NFL.  I knew I had to play at least three years. I worked hard every off season, and during school. You got to be willing to sacrifice for success. I really don’t go out, I really don’t hang out, I work.  

NFL YEARS

During his first year, Ray started in 15 of 16 games for the Minnesota Vikings, a rarity for a rookie.

Ray Edwards Jr

Ray Edwards Jr

 

ALNP: What was it like, once you got to the NFL? Was it everything you dreamed it would be?

Ray: It was the beginning of everything. I was twenty-one, and I had a great signing bonus. You go from having nothing to something, then you realize you can get more, and help more people. I was blessed to have Karl Dunbar of the Minnesota Vikings as my position coach. He is a great coach and great mentor of men.

As the years progress in the NFL, Ray encountered a suspension. The suspension was due to suspected “steroid” use, but Ray explains that it actually was a testosterone booster in a male enhancement drug that he took, that created the red flag.

“While on suspension, I picked up boxing, and it’s what I do now for a living. Everything happens for a reason. You never know why it happens, but it happens.”

In his comeback season, Ray had a break out year with 8 sacks.

ALNP: Do you feel the training you received from boxing, helped you have a breakout year?

Ray: “Absolutely. Boxing by far has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to train for in my life. It helps me strength wise, endurance wise, and mentally as well. In boxing you always got to think, it’s a thinking man’s sport. That’s why they call it the sweet science.”

Ray played with the Minnesota Vikings for seven years; afterwards, he played with the Atlanta Falcons. Due to various differences with the coaching staff, Ray stayed with the Falcons for a short period of time. Shortly after, Ray transitioned into boxing full time.

BOXING CAREER

Ray made his professional boxing debut on May 20, 2011, at a Minnesota casino, during a lockout period for his football career.

Ray Edwards ANLP: What was your first fight like?

Ray: I was a nervous wreck of course. I was still playing football at the time, working on a big contract. I was not sure when the lockout was going to end, but I knew I was going to go back to playing football. You have that on your mind, all your teammates that you’d played football with, there to watch you fight, and your family. I believe it might have been 2,500 people in the building. In football you have 100,000 people in the arena, but they are watching everybody play. For boxing, those 2,500 people were  focused on me and my opponent. Once the bell rang, and I got to moving around, I got loose, and continued to have tunnel vision with the goal to win the fight.” 

Ray won his first fight victoriously. Currently, as of August 2015, Ray has an undefeated record of 10-0 with 5 knockouts.

Ray Edwards won his professional boxing debut Friday night at Grand Casino in Hinckley, where he outscored heavyweight T.J. Gibson in their four round bout. Gibson fights out of a gym in Duluth.

Ray Edwards won his professional boxing debut at Grand Casino in Hinckley, where he outscored heavyweight T.J. Gibson in their four round bout.

THE FUTURE

In addition to boxing, Ray will be going back to school to pursue his degree in Criminal Justice. Furthermore, Ray has aspirations of building a community center in his home town of Cincinnati, OH that will develop quality women and men as leaders in society.

“My first goal was to have my first professional fight. As I continued to grow in boxing, my spirit began to speak to me more saying that when you become the heavy weight champion of the world, your next goal will be to become the undisputed heavy weight champion of the world. After that, your next goal will be to establish a center for kids in your community, where they can learn how to be men and women in society, no matter where they come from. I grew up in the projects, I grew up around drug and violence. No matter where you come from, you can be what you want to be, as long as you believe in yourself. ”

 

 Pearls of Wisdom from Ray Edwards Jr

“Look to be better than the situation you come from.”

“No matter what, stay true to your end goal.”

“We all have talent, are you willing to work?”

“Give back and help others.”

“You got to be willing to sacrifice for success.”

 

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