Ramses Barden: One Of A Kind
by: iman n. milner
photos: phoenix white for EDGE Magazine
“Ramses is someone who is for the people. He’s caring, he’s loving, he’s engaged, he’s responsible, he’s committed, and he’s passionate”. There was no better way to start this feature on a man who blew me away from the moment we met up with him in his childhood home until the moment we had to part than with his very own words. A perfect mix of strength, wisdom and boyish charm, Ramses Barden is the last of the men our fathers told us to find. He is what is left of the Harlem Renaissance, the manifestation of what Malcolm tried to teach us about ourselves and the personification of the cool that Miles played. While his peers dally about searching for themselves in material things and popularity amongst women, Barden’s commitment is to legacy, learning and uplifting. We have no doubt that he’ll conquer the mountains he’s placed before himself to climb and we can’t wait to see the way the world will be changed when he is finished with it.
You seem to be so different than the average man your age and definitely set a part from most athletes.
What do you think makes you so unique?
I focus on being me as much as possible. If I catch myself being less than me I try to make it a point to stop right then and there. It’s easy to get influenced by outside stimulus. I had parents who were older and I was an only child. I learned how to be alone. I learned how to be by myself and be comfortable. I learned how to thrive in discomfort. I’ve grown and matured in many ways but I’m more comfortable being me than anything else.
What are some of your other passions outside of football?
I have a strong passion for music. I would go as far as saying I study music. I pay attention to who sampled whom and I listen to a lot of different music. I have big influences in hip-hop and jazz. When you first got here I had the saxophone sitting out. I used to play when I was in 4th grade and I had trouble reading music so I would write the letters of the notes out so that I could read them seamlessly while playing. Music has always been a big part of my life. I have a passion for people too. I love eye contact and good conversation. I like the newness of experiencing someone for the first time. I love living in the moment. I have a passion for connectivity.
Take me through your journey to the NFL.
My journey started in the backyard. It started in the house and on the front lawn. I would make basketball hoops on the walls and make up games with my friends. Everything I did was always athletically driven. I developed a passion for basketball first but when I started playing football I realized I had more opportunities coming so I took that route. I rode that into a scholarship for college at Cal Poly. I recognized that I simply was not a quitter in college. I put focus on how I prepared myself during the season and in off-season. I learned that I was very talented so I nurtured my talents—I had the confidence that wherever I wanted to go with football, I could go. I almost came out of college and into the draft my junior year but it was my grandmother who talked me out of it. She didn’t even know it.
Did she think you could gain more from staying another year?
No. Actually she just said “you’re going to be my first grandbaby to graduate from college” and when I heard that I realized that sometimes it’s more important to finish what you start. I still ended up getting drafted by the Giants and she got to see me cross that stage.
What is one thing you wished people understood about the NFL and its players?
That this is a business. This is work. It’s more than a 9-5. The time that we put in is so long. During the off-season you have to put that time in on your own. You have to be self-motivated; no one is standing over you forcing you to get better. People underestimate the amount of work we put in to play this game. The actually games are played for a couple hours of week, everything else is work. It’s not just a game. It is a way of life. It is a means for your family and your future family. People see the headlines and the contract numbers but that’s just a very small part of the entire experience. In our sport, it’s seldom that people actually see the end of their contracts. There is a lack of respect for the human that is the athlete.
What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned in the league?
I learned that your coaches, management and owners are simply coworkers. You shouldn’t put them on a pedestal of fear and reservation and feel like you have to be different around them. Be respectful, of course, but be yourself. When you disconnect and try to put on an act it’s actually easier for you to get cut. If they don’t connect with you on a human level, they just see you as stats and a jersey number. It’s easy to play when you have no fear and you can eliminate that by establishing relationships. If you sit and talk with them openly and don’t look at them as these authoritative prison guards, it makes things easier. They are tools to maximize your success not diminish it. You’ll have peace of mind if you look at it that way.
What is your responsibility to your community?
People have overused the term “giving back” and it has lost its power. There are ways to help your community in deeper ways than “giving back”. These days you can show up to a charity event, shake a few hands and leave—and they’ll say you gave back. You can give a couple of thousands of dollars to a cause but if you don’t really care about it and don’t get truly involved, is that right? Giving back should be exclusive to living a life of openness and of sharing. Giving your time shows you care because time is the most important thing we have. My responsibility is to share my time with those I can help. And just being the happy, unique person I am especially around our people who aren’t necessarily comfortable in their own skin. I have to let them know it’s admirable and in their best interest to be proud of who they are and where they come from.
What do you hope your legacy will be?
To be known as a kind person who worked hard and achieved goals he set and left an example of how others can be. I want to have always been a man who followed my beliefs strongly.
Ramses Barden is currently on the active roster of the New York Giants, a Superbowl champion and a man with plans to change what we see as possible for own lives. He is that rare find and we’re so honored to have been able to introduce him to our readers.