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UK alum, former football star Derrick Ramsey pens memoir

Derrick Ramsey running with his usual style against Tennessee. Photo by Moore: from UK Archives - UK Digital Library: 1978 Kentuckian (UK Yearbook), Vol. 82.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 22, 2023) — University of Kentucky alumnus and former football star Derrick Ramsey has penned a new memoir about his childhood and career, both on the field and in serving Kentuckians. "They Call Me Mr. Secretary: Through the Lens of a Winner" is now available. 


“Your job is to get to the table,” my dad said to me one day when I was just 6 years old. “You either get to the table, or whatever scraps fall off, that’s what you’re left with. But if you get to the table, then you get to divide stuff up. You get to be part of the decision-making process. You get to decide how much goes to this person or that person.”

I never forgot those words. All my life, I’ve been trying to get to the table. This is my story.

Derrick Kent Ramsey entered the world calmly on Sunday, Dec. 23, 1956, at 5:30 in the afternoon. There were no blaring trumpets or loud sirens heralding his arrival. In fact, the local doctor delivered Ramsey right within the nurturing walls of his cozy, 2,300-square-foot childhood home — the fourth of five children born to hard-working parents, Rudolph (Rudy) and Elizabeth (Nig) Ramsey.

"They Call Me Mr. Secretary" takes you from Ramsey's impressionable childhood spent in segregated Hastings, Florida, up through his current role as elder statesman of both the National Football League and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. His story is one of encouragement and inspirational leadership — and how his relentless drive, endless determination and competitive spirit culminated in the achievement of his lifelong dreams.

Early on, the Ramseys were a family of star athletes, but Derrick Ramsey's parents seldom lauded their children for their athletic accomplishments. Instead, they always encouraged their kids to excel in academics. Astonishingly, Rudy and Nig Ramsey fully understood the value of a college education even though they had never experienced it themselves. Derrick Ramsey was a Black athlete playing quarterback in the Deep South. During the civil rights turbulence of the ’60s and ’70s, the odds of future success on the athletic field were frequently fickle and fleeting.

As readers will learn in his narrative, however, Ramsey defied those odds at each stop on his way to stardom. Whether leading his high school team to multiple state championships, or quarterbacking the University of Kentucky to their best season in school history, or winning Super Bowl XV with the Oakland Raiders, Ramsey's on-the-field accomplishments became stuff that legends are made of. But stay tuned — it’s his accomplishments after his nine-year NFL career ended that make his story astoundingly intriguing.

In this powerful memoir, Ramsey pulls no punches. He addresses head on the constant tension between athletic prowess and academic achievement. He dives deep into relationships with family, friends, teammates, opponents and adversaries. As the first Black quarterback to start at the University of Kentucky, he openly discusses the never-ending issue of racism in America.

Through perseverance, hard work and an indefatigable will to win, Ramsey led his teams to countless victories on the football field. But those same persistent qualities also made a huge difference in the lives of those he touched off the field. Very few athletes — let alone Black athletes — have cast such a positive shadow over their respective communities by making it to the table.

Whether discussing politics or religion, sports or academia, business or pop culture, it’s all here for readers to peruse and ponder. And it’s all written from the heart and perspective of a man of color hoping to inspire, encourage and motivate others to achieve their dreams also.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.