“Competitive, and focused with a knack for the bigger picture.”
Ryan grew up in Fort Worth, TX, raised by his mother and step-father who are both Texas natives. The middle of 5 kids in a blended family, he recalls his mother being very strict growing up. “I remember all of my friends were scared of my mom, but in a respectful way. They just knew she didn’t play”. It wouldn’t be until years later, he would appreciate how hard she pushed him.
Basketball consumed Ryan’s life through High School until he declined offers to play at local colleges, to attend Hampton University in Hampton, VA. “At the time, I felt like none of my peers wanted to leave Texas, but I couldn’t wait to get away to see what else was out there.”
After college, Ryan found his way into the world of professional sports, securing a position with the Dallas Cowboys. But after spending two seasons in Dallas, there was a setback when he was laid off during the NFL lockout. “When I think about it, this helped me the most for my next step, because it taught me to take risks. I realized that failing has never scared me, but otherwise an opportunity to grow.” It was then Ryan was granted the opportunity to work for the New York Yankees in the Bronx, NY.
Ryan is currently in New York working with the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the Content group, who produce such events as NBA All-Star Game and the NBA Finals, just to name a few. But one of his proudest accomplishments is co-founding LOCKEDIN, an organization that mentors and allows minority high school students an opportunity to learn about the business of sports. In this week’s #ShineHard Conversation, we present a competitive professional with a knack for the bigger picture.
Tell us about your Childhood. What was Growing up like for you?
Ryan: I’m originally from Ft. Worth Texas/ My childhood was good and I have a great family. Growing up, my mom was a huge testament to my success. She put me into sports. I played basketball and football growing up and I actually started in baseball. As I got older, basketball really became my passion going into college.
Who did you look up to as a kid?
Ryan: My grandfather. He’s from a small town called Kirvin, Tx. population 104 (laughs). When he was 17 he went to Tuskegee and graduated at 21. He went on to become a general in the army. I just think about all the things he had stacked against him, but he we was able to go on and really be great against the odds. I was able to build from that. I looked at how he was able to overcome and always asked myself what would he do. I hope to achieve the success that he’s had.
Did you always want to work in sports?
Ryan: I thought I was going to go into the music industry first. I started an internship my sophomore year with Radio One Hot 107.9 in Atlanta. Man it was such a blast! I mean anyone from Atlanta knows Birthday Bash and all the crazy concerts. I was dealing with artists like TI, Young Jeezy, etc. Atlanta was just a boomin’ time. That was just really exciting for a 19 year old kid from Ft. Worth Texas. I thought that was going to be the path.
How did your experience with the Yankees and Cowboys prepare you for the NBA?
Ryan: Man, world class organizations. So you’re learning at another level. Both organizations gave me the tools and the confidence to be successful in the industry. Because now, knowing that I have experienced the top of the game, it’s a continuous confidence builder for me. You know, you have a little bit of success and you’re like, “OK I got this!” What I learned the most, is to fall in love with the process.
What does a typical day at the NBA look like?
Ryan: Well we wear a couple hats. One, we work with our partners to decide what content we share with our fans. How do we convey the NBA’s message and how do we also convey the partners message. Then also managing all of the events that go on within the NBA. The Finals, All-Star Weekend, Summer League, or our D-League platform. We activate a lot of the leagues biggest events behind the scenes. Sometimes people think content is just social media but my team is underground planning and coming up with the strategy for the messaging. We work closely with social media but they are a highly skilled department all of their own.
What would you say is your passion and when did you know?
Ryan: My passion is giving back. One thing I love to do is talk to college students. For me, coming from a Fort Worth, Texas and not really having a trail that was blazed for me, anyone I see that I can help I definitely try to. As long as I see that passion and the will to work for it then I’m willing to help in any way that I can. Whether it’s volunteering or corresponding with young people on linked in, I do my best to talk to those people. I remember being that guy who didn’t know where to start. It’s a mentality of, “I see you, I see where you’re trying to go, and I’m willing to help.”
Whats the biggest challenge for you?
Ryan: I think the biggest challenge is continuing to push yourself. We try to consider ourselves being at the forefront. It’s great because we have a platform like the NBA and the fans that we have, it allows us to do things on a big scale. But how do we continuously push ourselves to do new things? Sometimes in a large organization it’s easy to stay with what you know and with what works. Within the confinements of what we can do, we try to push creativity to another level.
Have you ever gotten a job applying through the application data base?
Ryan: Um, no. It’s mostly been relationships. I would say I’ve applied then reached out to someone and let them know that I applied. From there, they would go in and pull my application at that point. Everything from there is up to me (laughs). A lot of job hunting is going to be who you know, and not necessarily who you know but who knows you. That’s another important thing I have learned as well.
What’s been a key to your survival in New York City?
Ryan: I have a group of friends here that have just been the support system. I think that’s a major major key. Getting New York, it’s funny, the Cowboys were cutting staff and offered to send me to the Yankees. I moved to Harlem and worked in the Bronx. I looked around the office and was only about five minority men, of course we all end up gravitating towards each other. We were all hungry for success but we also liked to kick it, so what we did was create a pact. We said that we would meet Wednesday morning every week at 6:45am. It was different levels of careers and we shared our experiences. I definitely contribute much of my success to being a part of that group. We were competitive and as we grew as a unit. We acquired like minds from the surrounding organizations and we called our group LockedIn. It was built from an empowerment platform posing the question, “How do we get better?” “How are we going to outwork that next person?”
What is the DNA of your Success?
Ryan: Hard Work for sure. Understanding that I’m humbled to be in this position but someone else is coming after you. Back home there are whole class of guys that would like to be in my position. When ever I face a challenge, I think about that. I think about the people who would love to be in our shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I have light years to go but I see the bigger picture. It’s just staying humble and hungry. In order to stay number one you have to work like you’re number two!
What is your end goal professionally?
Ryan: To be honest, I don’t know yet. I think about it a lot but I try to bring myself down and say, “be the best that you can be today.” We sometimes forget to be the best person we can be today, understanding that if we can conquer the day then the best will develop. I feel like I have a long way to go. I definitely think my future is in entertainment or tech. Maybe something that merges the two. Right now I’m just focused on crushing everything in my path.
What advice do you have for people who want to shine in the sports industry? What steps should they take? What’s the mindset?
Ryan: Reach out! There’s a wealth of knowledge that people are willing to share. Coming out of college I used to think when asking question I was bothering somebody, but I learned quickly that asking questions is a good thing because people are willing to help. Talk to as many people as possible! But on the same token be willing to work hard and back up what you’re asking for. It takes innate tenacity and courage to win in the sports industry.