Former Mountaineer Ray Gaddis Shines for the MLS's Philadelphia Union
Matt Hauswirth, MORGANTOWN -
There are plenty of former Mountaineer athletes competing at the professional level. However, for most WVU fans, there are only a select few that consistently come to mind.
Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Bruce Irvin and Jedd Gyorko – those are some of the bigger names.
Gaddis played for the Mountaineer men’s soccer program between 2009 and 2011. He was drafted with the 35th overall pick in the second round of the 2012 Major League Soccer (MLS) Super Draft by the Philadelphia Union.
Regardless, he has not forgotten the university that has allowed him to take off.
“For myself, getting drafted and being the highest drafted men’s soccer player out of WVU – I’ve just always wanted to rep my university,” Gaddis said during a recent phone interview with West Virginia Illustrated. “I always work hard, stay positive and remain optimistic about my future. I wasn’t trying to expect too much from myself. I feel like my hard work will eventually show itself.”
In order to really understand the type of player and person Ray Gaddis is, then look no further than WVU Men’s Soccer Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc.
“We’ve had a number of guys go on and do very, very well,” LeBlanc said during a recent stop along the WVU Coaches Caravan. “One guy in particular right now is Ray Gaddis. He was a captain here for us. He’s a starter for the Philadelphia Union. He has really put his mark on the league and has emerged as one of the top right-back [defenders] in the league by quite a few media sources right now. So we’re really excited about what he’s doing there.”
His accomplishments, three years into his professional career, have been vast. But as the planet currently enjoys the 2014 World Cup from Brazil, Gaddis explained that he cannot stop thinking about securing his opportunity to suit up for the red, white and blue one day.
From what he has heard up to this point, becoming a future member of the United States Men’s National Team is a bit more realistic than one may believe.
“It’s very realistic,” Gaddis replied with a tone of seriousness. “It’s my third year in the MLS and it’s been my best year in the league. I made the All-Rookie team my first year. But regardless of what I’ve done up to this point, it’s all about timing. I need to continue to establish myself. But nonetheless, it’s very realistic that I could earn a spot on the U.S. Team based off what I’ve heard from the coaches.”
Simply having a chance to make any national team is what every athlete dreams of – to represent their country on the biggest stage. But that begs the question: How does an athlete begin to be considered for such a lofty opportunity?
“You just need to be playing well at the right time,” Gaddis said. “It’s pretty simple. The United States coaches want winners. They are always keeping track of different player’s progress, whether it’s overseas or here in America. Basically, the coaches will call in the best players at the time they’re needed and showcase them during international friendly matches. There’s a lot of luck involved, but if you perform at a consistent level, they’ll find you. If I keep up my pace, then I feel like my time will come.”
Geoff Cameron, a former WVU men’s soccer player for two years before ultimately transferring to Rhode Island, is currently a starter along the defense for Team USA. Although Gaddis played at WVU during a different era than Cameron, he admitted that he looks up to him as an athlete, and as a fellow Mountaineer.
“We’ve all heard the saying: Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer,” Gaddis said. “Geoff [Cameron] plays in England now, so I don’t get to play against him in the MLS. But I know him pretty well and am proud of what he’s been able to do.”
Furthermore, if you were wondering about Gaddis’ loyalty to WVU – then don’t. He concedes that choosing West VirginiaUniversity was the best decision of his life.
”Being a Mountaineer – people get behind you and instantly jump in your corner. It’s a family thing when you’re a Mountaineer,” he added. “I travel to Houston for a game and I take the field with 20 WVU fans screaming my name. It’s happened before. I’ve even been to Seattle to play and have met a Mountaineer fan because they knew I was on the roster. It’s really a great feeling.”
He may not play a mainstream American sport such as football, basketball or baseball, but he’s playing a sport that’s regarded as the most popular in the world. Judging by the 6.3 television rating (11.093 million viewers) for the USA versus Ghana match, it’s a fair assessment to say soccer is a sport that is gaining steam throughout the United States.
Move over Geno, Tavon, Bruce and Jedd – It’s time to make room for Raymon Gaddis, the next professional athlete to make Mountaineer Nation proud.