When Dr. Rhadi Ferguson was a junior in high school, his family came to an important conclusion.
Dr. Ferguson’s mother, a renowned attorney, and father, an accomplished athlete and entrepreneur, decided that their son would go on to study engineering at university.
It was decided unanimously, but one notable Ferguson was ultimately left out of the decision-making process.
“When my parents said that I’m going to go to school and study engineering, that’s just what it was,” the 37-year-old Miami product recounted. “I didn’t grow up in one of those houses where your parents say, ‘Oh, man, follow your dreams!’ No, no, no. That’s what it was.”
Dr. Ferguson, a talented athlete and student growing up, admittedly didn’t recognize why his parents insisted he study engineering at the time, but he didn’t argue, either. In retrospect, Dr. Ferguson, the son of two first-generation Americans, understands exactly why his parents wanted him to study one of the most difficult disciplines.
“My mother told me stories of drinking from a colored water fountain and being hit with a water hose in the ‘60s...My dad played football for people who jokingly would call him a nigger in the locker room,” Dr. Ferguson recalled, speaking slowly and deliberately.
“It was very different. I grew up very aware that I was a black person in America, I grew up being very aware that academic achievement was not an option in my home; it was a necessity. Coming from a strong Caribbean background, being average in the classroom wasn’t an option.
“Academics were paramount and that foundation was set early.”
After Dr. Ferguson graduated from high school on the National Honor Society, he was accepted to Howard University, where he starred on the school’s football, track and field and wrestling squads, and got to work on his engineering degree.
Dr. Ferguson is the first to admit that he didn’t enjoy his discipline—“It was like going to the dentist every day,” he admitted—but he nevertheless graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1997.
Going to school may have been akin to pulling teeth for Dr. Ferguson, who earned his Master of Arts in Teaching degree with a 4.0 GPA in 2002 before receiving his Ph.D. in Education with a 4.0 GPA from Capella University. But his education has given him much more than an understanding of mechanical engineering.
“I see things differently than other people see them; I see them as systems,” explained Dr. Ferguson, who insisted that one becomes a great thinker from engineering.
“I look at everything as a problem. I look at everything like a problem statement with a given set of things that need to be solved. I look at things totally different...I can sit there and look at it for a period of time and break it down into a systems problem or a system dynamics problem or a dynamics problem or a statics problem, and I can figure it out. In my mind, I can draw a diagram of what’s going on—I can see it happening in motion—and I can fix it.”
For Dr. Ferguson, this philosophy, which he attributes entirely to his time at Howard University, has made much of what he has accomplished in his life “simple.” Simple or not, Dr. Ferguson has accomplished quite a bit over the years.
In the world of athletics, Dr. Ferguson is a four-time national champion judoka, represented the United States at the Olympic Games in Athens and served as an alternate on the squad for the Olympics in Sydney. As a mixed martial artist, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt went undefeated before walking away from the sport in 2011.
Dr. Ferguson, who has written several books and produced countless audio programs and DVDs regarding athletic training, is also one of the world’s most sought-after personal trainers, having trained All-Americans, Youth Olympians, Olympians, national champions, Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champions, professional wrestlers, MMA fighters and countless other high-level athletes over the years.
Dr. Ferguson noted that he is most proud of his judo product that he launched with Jimmy Pedro, a four-time Olympian, on grip fighting—Underground Grip Fighting Secrets (www.UndergroundGripFightingSecrets.com).
Outside of his own athletic endeavors, Dr. Ferguson is the owner of Ferguson Marketing Systems in Boca Raton, FL, where, according to his website, he “provides clients and subscribers with his leading, state-of-the-art expertise as a master marketer, strength and conditioning coach, trainer, consultant and motivational speaker.”
To be certain, Dr. Ferguson is proud of what he’s been able to accomplish athletically and professionally. But the married father of a six-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter is quick to point out that he is most proud of something that many in the athletics and business worlds may not remember him for.
“I’m most proud of my family. My wife and my kids.” Dr. Ferguson offered. “I’m most proud of being able to wake up every day next to the most beautiful and intelligent women that I know and raise two wonderful children and watch them develop. My kids are good people—even at a young age...I’m excited that we're raising good citizens.”
Ferguson received his doctorate, but he is quick to clarify that he's not the only doctor in the house. His wife, Traci, is a medical doctor who graduated and completed her residency at Johns Hopkins Medical School. "She's the real doctor in the house," he added with a laugh.
For more information on Dr. Rhadi Ferguson, you can visit his website at www.DrRhadiFerguson.com.
Ed Kapp is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained firsthand.