Dawn Ridley

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V.P., Corp. Marketing & Business Development, N.F.L. Players Inc., Washington, D.C. Age: 37

As a child Dawn Ridley wasn’t particularly athletic. By her own admission, she was a “bookworm.” Indeed, many who knew her back then would be surprised that sports marketing became her calling and that she has worked in the field for more than a decade. None would be more surprised than she is, she says, for little Dawn Ridley believed that Dawn the grown-up would become Dawn the writer or Dawn the teacher.

An MBA graduate from Clark Atlanta University, Ridley knows only too well how important it is for young people who, like her, come from a less-than-privileged background, to recognize that there are ways to become successful other than those glamorized on television. That’s a hard line to sell, she concedes, particularly because her job involves marketing some of those very television images. “We do all kids a disser-vice by not encouraging multiple avenues of success. When we focus on only one way to ‘make it,’ we’re leaving out a lot of folks,” she says.

Even so, she considers it a privilege to witness the growing number of League players who are working assiduously to create opportunities for so many people. It shows there is more to those players than the game they play so well, she says.

Like her family and the teachers she credits with encouraging her along her path to achievement, she is compelled to nurture those behind her. She takes every opportunity to mentor and to be active on the boards on which she serves, including the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Special Olympics, District of Columbia, and is a member of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden. Among the Alliance’s mandates is the support of youth organizations that use sports to build character and leadership, encourage physical fitness and enhance education.

Ridley may yet be a writer or a teacher or both. For now, however, she is impassioned by what she does to pay the bills: making sure that her clients get the best deal possible for their efforts as members of the National Football League.