The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.

Today’s Q&A feature is Ray Shipman, Director of Business Development Sports Medicine for Memorial Healthcare System and Founder of Championships Inc, a nonprofit organization established to inspire young athletes through mentorship, education, and professional development.

Ray was awarded a full scholarship to play basketball at The University of Florida. While attending The University of Florida, he excelled academically and was named the SEC Scholar Athlete of The Year. He credits his success to great study habits and his understanding of the importance of education. He set out to change the way many athletes are perceive when it comes to their commitment to education. After two years at the University of Florida, Ray decided to go back to his first love, by transitioning from the court to the field. In 2011, he received a scholarship to play football at the University of Central Florida.

In the 2013 NFL Draft, Ray was signed by the New Orleans Saints where he spent the entire pre-season with the Saints. After a career ending injury, Ray decided he wanted to make the transition from being a professional athlete to a working professional in Health Care Sports Administration.

For his work in the healthcare industry, Ray has been awarded one of Legacy Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders of Tomorrow.

During his free time, Ray enjoys spending time with his family and teaching as an adjunct professor at Florida International University.

He is an inspiration for youth that want to get involved in leadership. We caught up with Ray to find out what leadership means to him and what advice he would give to the next generation of leaders.

Why did you choose this career path?

I didn’t choose this career path, I kind of stumbled into it. I thought my NFL career would have lasted until I chose retirement. Unfortunately, I was released after only playing one year. As a former collegiate and professional athlete, sports medicine has been a part of my life since little league. I’ve suffered multiple injuries throughout my career and have always been intrigued with the medical process that was put in place to get me back on the field. I’ve always had a passion for helping others and sports.

Who inspired you to get involved?

My dad has always encouraged me to go for it all and do what my heart desires. After my NFL career ended, a lot of my family and friends encouraged me to get into coaching. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. I turned down multiple coaching opportunities and an opportunity to play professionally in Canada to pursue my MBA in Sports Administration.

How do you define a leader?

Leaders are clear and concise at all times–there is no question of their vision and what needs to be accomplished. Generally, very few people know what they want, much less how to get there, so they will gravitate towards those who appear to have a clear picture in mind–good clarity leads to great achievement.

What projects are you currently involved in?

I recently wrote my first children’s book titled “No Grades No Play”. My book engages our next generation of athletes by opening their eyes to the important role education has on their athletic dreams. There are too many athletes who depend solely on their athletic abilities. As a result, talented athletes are not qualifying to attend universities.

What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?

Be mindful about the individual leader or manager you choose to work for. In my experiences, and hearing from leaders I’ve worked with, the person you choose to work for is a critical leadership decision. While you may possess strong leadership attributes yourself, they will either be amplified by a great leader, or suppressed by a weak or mediocre leader.