Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Derrick K. Ramsey, April 23, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Origins of his interest in football

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Partial Transcript: Good afternoon everybody, this is Bill Ransdell here.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses the origins of his interest in football, noting that it began at a young age. He discusses how his entire family was interested in sports, with his father and brothers being football players while his mother played basketball. He notes how his parents used his interest in football as motivation.

Keywords: Brothers; Childhood; Family; Family interest in football; Football

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.

GPS: Hastings (Fla.)
Map Coordinates: 29.716667, -81.508333
00:04:48 - Role model growing up

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Partial Transcript: When you were growing up, was there one person at nine or then you get to twelve, or you get to fifteen. Did it change ever?

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses his father as a role model. He notes that his childhood was spent with his father watching football with his friends. He notes his father's advice in pursuing football as a goal, comparing him to a coach. He discusses how football allowed his father to continue playing vicariously through his sons.

Keywords: "Rudy's boys"; Coaches; Fathers; Football; Football families; Inspirations; NFL games; Role models

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.

GPS: Hastings (Fla.)
Map Coordinates: 29.716667, -81.508333
00:08:38 - Moving from Hastings, Florida to Camden, New Jersey

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Partial Transcript: When you, uh, when you get past nine, you get up to be a sophomore, Dad's sitting there and kind of saying you got to get it out.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses his move from Hastings, Florida to Camden, New Jersey. He notes how he entered high school right as Florida high schools became desegregated. He discusses the culture shock of coming to New Jersey from Florida. Ramsey also notes a passing interest in boxing due to his uncle's influence. He talks about getting into fights at Camden High School, and compares Camden to the University of Kentucky. Ramsey also lists other football players he came into contact with at Camden. He also lists various colleges that attempted to recruit him to attend.

Keywords: Art Still; Basketball colleges; Boxing; Camden High School; Camden High School football players; Camden, New Jersey; Hastings, Florida; High school football; High schools; School integration; Temple University; University of Kentucky; University of Miami; Villanova University

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.

GPS: Camden High School (Camden, N.J.)
Map Coordinates: 39.934195, -75.0982
00:16:26 - Top college choices

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Partial Transcript: What were you top five?

Segment Synopsis: In contrast to the previous segment, in this segment Ramsey notes the colleges that he considered his top choices to attend and play for. He notes how he initially was signed to play for the University of Michigan until head coach Bo Schembechler denied him the ability to play both football and basketball. He discusses considering the University of North Carolina or another school in the Southeastern Conference.

Keywords: Basketball; Bo Schembechler; College athletics; College choices; Football drafts; Signings; Southeastern Conference (SEC); University of North Carolina

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.

00:19:49 - University of Kentucky's ranking in football

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Partial Transcript: Now, was Kentucky in--at this point, they were in the game, at, at, when you--

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses Kentucky's stature in football at the time, noting that the University of Kentucky was not highly regarded. Instead he notes that the coach, Fran Curci had some reputation. He discusses his talks with a recruiter about Kentucky, needing to be convinced to sign up with the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Football recruiting; Fran Curci; University of Kentucky football; University of Kentucky football rankings

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.022811, -84.505113
00:23:17 - Signing with the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Alright, so you guys come down.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses the process of signing with the University of Kentucky, noting that he was only interested in playing quarterback. He notes some of the other schools he saw during this period, such as Tennessee State and Mississippi Valley State. He also discusses meeting Terry Bradshaw in this period.

Keywords: Florida Agricultural and Mechanical; Football recruiting; Fran Curci; Mississippi Valley State; Quarterbacks; Tennessee State University; Terry Bradshaw; Tight ends; University of Kentucky football; University of Kentucky football rankings

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.022811, -84.505113
00:29:33 - Experience at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Alright, so you come to Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses his experience at the University of Kentucky as a student, noting his experience with the integrated school system. He compares his time in college with his time in high school. He notes his concern with how the University of Kentucky treated its veterans, with which he was not pleased. But, he discusses how his time at the University of Kentucky helped him become acquainted with the state of Kentucky and the people of Kentucky, which set him up for his later political career.

Keywords: Commonwealth of Kentucky; Comparisons; Integration; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky integration

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.022811, -84.505113
00:33:20 - University of Kentucky depth chart

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Partial Transcript: So, you get here.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses his thoughts on the University of Kentucky depth chart, noting that he was placed twelfth to fifteenth on the chart.

Keywords: Depth charts; Football depth charts; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky football

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.022811, -84.505113
00:35:53 - Anecdote of being forced not to play at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, '75 was when you started?

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses a period of six weeks where he was "benched" or denied the ability to play due to losing a game against the University of Kansas. He notes that the situation was dire enough that either he was benched or Coach Fran Curci would be fired. He describes how he was considering his options and considering transferring to the University of Michigan. When he returned to playing, he discusses how Curci was more receptive to him and altered the play style to match Ramsey's own style.

Keywords: Benching; Football plays; Fran Curci; Offense; Quarterbacks; University of Florida; University of Kentucky football; University of Michigan

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.022811, -84.505113
00:47:09 - 1976 football season

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Partial Transcript: So, you get to seventy, uh, six, eight and four.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses the 1976 football season. He lists the other starting quarterbacks. He notes victories over North Carolina at the Peach Bowl and being featured in the Southeastern Conference's official magazine. He acknowledges how that year also lost six starting quarterbacks.

Keywords: 1976 Football season; Football seasons; Fran Curci; Peach Bowl; SEC Magazine; Southeastern Conference (SEC); University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky football

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.022811, -84.505113
00:49:32 - Hopes for an undefeated season at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: I was featured in SEC Magazine that summer.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey relays an incident where he boasted about having an undefeated season, which caused controversy. He discusses games against North Carolina, Baylor University, and the University of West Virginia. During this season he hints at the presence of continued racial prejudice.

Keywords: Baylor University; Football seasons; Fran Curci; Mike Singletary; Racial prejudice; SEC Magazine; University of Kentucky football; West Virginia

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.022811, -84.505113
00:56:06 - Responding to racial prejudice in University of Kentucky football

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Partial Transcript: I never saw, I never saw color, I saw players.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses the presence of racial prejudice while playing football for the University of Kentucky. Ransdell discusses how he never saw color when he watched players like Ramsey play, which Ramsey uses to segue into talking about how he addressed the racial concerns of the other players. He notes how he joked to lighten the atmosphere and loosen tensions with white players. He compares his experience as an African American player to Coach Fran Curci's experience as an Italian in Miami. He also notes that he had discussions with former Governor "Happy" Chandler about race and sports.

Keywords: Happy Chandler; Jackie Robinson; Racial prejudice; Racial prejudice at the University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky football; University of Miami

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Social conditions; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; Race discrimination; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.022811, -84.505113
01:03:20 - University of Kentucky football successes

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Partial Transcript: Years after that, uh, I don't think the fans understood how good we really were.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses various victories the University of Kentucky football team had during his tenure, such as beating Tennessee State. He notes how they also defeated Mississippi State and Louisiana State, the latter at Tiger Stadium. He also describes beating the University of Florida. He notes the transition of the team to the number three football team in the country.

Keywords: Football successes; Homecoming; Louisiana State University; Mississippi State University; Tennessee State University; Tiger Stadium; University of Florida; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky football; University of Kentucky football successes

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium (Lexington, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.022811, -84.505113
01:08:56 - Playing basketball at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So, while you were at Kentucky, um, did you play basketball?

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses playing basketball at the University of Kentucky. He notes he played for Coach Joe Hall. He lists other basketball players. He notes what made him decide to focus solely on football rather than basketball.

Keywords: Joe B. Hall; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky basketball

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; Basketball players--Kentucky; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Basketball; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:11:39 - Relationship with Coach Fran Curci

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Partial Transcript: Coach has been there, Coach Curci was your guy.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses his relationship with University of Kentucky football coach Fran Curci. He notes how they still talk frequently. He notes conversations he had while playing for Kentucky, as well as provides anecdotes of the two.

Keywords: Anecdotes; Coach Fran Curci; Fran Curci; Friendships; Mentorships; Relationships; University of Florida; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky football; University of Kentucky football coaches

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:15:55 - Playing for the Oakland Raiders

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Partial Transcript: So, next on, NFL [National Football League]?

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses being drafted to play for the Oakland Raiders. He discusses playing for them while John Madden was serving as head coach.

Keywords: Football drafts; John Madden; National Football League (NFL); Oakland Raiders; Professional football; Tight ends

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:18:45 - Opportunity to play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Canada

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Partial Transcript: But I tell you, as I reflect back, if I would change anything, um, I would go to Canada.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey admits that if he could have changed anything about his career, it would be accepting an offer to move to Canada to play for the Canadian Football League under the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He notes how talks fell through following a dispute over converting Canadian dollars to American dollars for his salary. He also admits that none of his cohort at the University of Kentucky ever joined the NFL as a quarterback.

Keywords: Canadian Football League; Canadian dollars; Hamilton Tiger-Cats; Professional football; Quarterbacks

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:21:26 - Transferring to the New England Patriots

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Partial Transcript: So--(clears throat)--Raiders, you're there, everything's good, win a Super Bowl.

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses the circumstances that led to his dismissal from the Oakland Raiders and his transfer to the New England Patriots. He discusses how there was a dispute over getting surgery for a football injury. Ramsey's refusal to get surgery forced Al Davis to remove Ramsey from the Raiders. He notes his transfer to the Patriots and finishing his football career with the Detroit Lions.

Keywords: 1982 football season; Al Davis; Ankle sprains; Cedar-Sinai; Detroit Lions; Football injuries; National Football League (NFL); New England Patriots; Oakland Raiders; Professional football; Torn ACL

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

01:27:58 - Favorite memories of the University of Kentucky and the National Football League

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Partial Transcript: You got a favorite NFL memory, or something that sticks out, be it personal, coaching, on the field, or, and then kind of going back to UK?

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses his favorite memories playing for the University of Kentucky and in the National Football League. He notes how UK's fans supported the team even while it was not the greatest, and hoped he was able to give back that same support to the fans. He also discusses his relationship and anecdotes with Oakland Raiders general manager Al Davis, including restoring their relationship following their falling out. Ramsey notes how he was frequently denied positions because he asked too much for his salary, as well as his time as a real estate agent in California during the off season. Ramsey also discusses his career between football and politics, noting serving as the athletic director for Kentucky State University until Jim Host was named Secretary of Commerce for the state.

Keywords: Al Davis; Athletic directors; California real estate; Commonwealth of Kentucky; Fans; Favorite memories; Jim Host; Kentucky State University; Memories; National Football League (NFL); Oakland Raiders; Off season; Secretary of Commerce; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky football

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Kentucky State University (Frankfort, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.200262, -84.855839
01:41:48 - Serving as Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: And how was that experience with the state the first time?

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses serving as Deputy Secretary of Commerce for the state of Kentucky. He notes how Jim Host offered him a wide amount of authority and freedom to act. He discusses the end of his tenure with the new governor's administration, which led to him working for Coppin State University.

Keywords: Coppin State University; Deputy Secretary of Commerce; Jim Host; State government; State politics

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History

GPS: Coppin State University (Baltimore, Md.)
Map Coordinates: 39.31028, -76.65861
01:45:28 - Return to politics / Advice for young people

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Partial Transcript: So, it brings us to, um, you're here at Coppin, and you get a call? Uh, change of administrations, state of Kentucky again?

Segment Synopsis: Ramsey discusses his return to serving the state government as the Secretary of Education and Workforce Development. He notes how he offered his services to Governor Matt Bevin. He offers advice to young people to work hard and the importance of building relationships with teams and friends. Ransdell then contributes his thoughts on building relationships with one's team. Ramsey carries on by comparing athletes to modern day gladiators, and tells young people to want to win.

Keywords: Advice; Comparisons; Football bonds; Football connections; Modern day gladiators; Secretary of Education and Workforce Development; Secretary of Labor; State government; State politics; Team bonds; Young people

Subjects: African American football players; African Americans--Sports; College athletes; College sports--Kentucky; College sports.; Discrimination in sports; Football players--Kentucky; Football players.; Football.; Professional sports.; University of Kentucky--Football; University of Kentucky--Sports--History