For a brief moment in time between 2003 and 2005, Damani Ralph was one of the hottest names in MLS.
A lanky, 6-foot forward from Jamaica, Ralph was the type of player that teams covet: young, fast and seemingly able to score at will.
Agents, not surprisingly, are also always on the lookout for clients whose skill set matches that description. So it makes sense that five years removed from a playing career cut short by knee injuries, the 2003 MLS Rookie of the Year is the one hunting MLS for “the next big thing.”
Speaking from his New York home, the affable player-cum-agent shows no signs of bitterness about his all-too-brief moment in the sun, easily cracking jokes about his short time with the Fire and Russia’s Rubin Kazan.
“I have a lot to be thankful for,” the UConn alum told MLSsoccer.com. “I achieved in a very short time what a lot of guys don’t achieve in a 15-year career. Playing for a big college, turning professional in Chicago, having some success with the national team, playing in Europe. I guess my career was a reflection of how I played: explosive. It was explosive but short.”
He is also very candid about his long, determined but ultimately unsuccessful battle to return to the pitch.
After enduring years of surgeries and bouts of depression, Ralph made a final attempt to return to the field while on trial with the New York Red Bulls in early 2010.
“It was difficult for me to accept but the trial in New York was the last push,” he said. “The knee was just not able to hold up, to perform and compete at that level anymore but it led me to where I am today.”
Ralph gives a lot of credit to his former agent Patrick McCabe — with whom Ralph now works as a part of Santio Sports + Entertainment Group — for sticking by him while he was injured.
“He, along with my medical trainer John Galuchi, never gave up and stuck by me through the whole process, until I said, ‘That’s it.’” Ralph recounted.
And with that, Ralph moved to the other side of the table and started down the road to being an agent, something that he saw as great way to stay connected to the game he loved.
“This wasn’t a dream for me, but the opportunity came about when I was injured,” Ralph says. “I’ve working behind the scenes with Patrick and Santio for the last year-and-a-half, familiarizing myself with professional contracts, meeting with players from Jamaica and other places and just kind of shadowing and seeing how it’s done.”
While other agents may have been in the game longer and may have more contacts, Ralph sees his experience as a player and his ties to his native Jamaica as unique assets.
“I have a lot to offer," he said. "I’ve experienced the highs and lows and obviously I have a lot of contacts in Jamaica. There’s never been so many Jamaicans in MLS [at the same time], so I think there is an opportunity for me to be very helpful here. I want to bridge that gap.”