Indy Eleven midfielder Brad Ring stood near midfield with one son in his arms. To his right, Indy Eleven President Jeff Belskus held a framed jersey that read “Ring 100”. On his left, Juli , his wife, held a bouquet of flowers in one hand and their daughter in the other. Their eldest son stood at her side. Belskus presented the jersey to Ring, who then kissed his wife and daughter and hugged his sons.
The framed jersey celebrated Ring’s 100th appearance as an Indy Eleven player; A feat only one other player, Don Smart, has reached with the club. Ring’s 100th appearance came against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in Week Nine of Indy Eleven’s inaugural USL season and Ring’s fifth season with the team.
“The biggest take away from having 100 appearances with one club is the commitment,” Ring said. “I’ve been committed to the club, the fan base, and the city from day one.”
The night of the ceremony would also mark another milestone for the 31-year-old. Ring would make his 102nd appearance for the “Boys in Blue”, as Captain, against Bethlehem Steel FC. The start would earn him the top spot on the list of all-time appearances as an Indy Eleven player, overtaking Smart.
“Brad is a legend on and off the field,” Smart said. “I’m very happy and proud to be his teammate for 4 years and want to congratulate him on the accomplishment.”
Ring’s journey with Indy Eleven began in 2014. However, his flight to professional soccer, and life in Indiana, began in 2005 at Indiana University in Bloomington.
“Indiana University was a huge part of my foundation as a professional soccer player,” Ring said. “That’s where I started to see the game as a career, not just as fun to play.”
Ring was a key part of Indiana University Men’s Soccer during his time in Bloomington. The defensive midfielder finished his collegiate career with 78 appearances, 14 goals, and eight assists.
The stellar performances during his tenure at Indiana’s oldest university earned him the chance to take his soccer career to the professional level. But fate nearly kept Ring from seizing the opportunity.
“My senior year at Indiana University I battled with a lower abdominal injury which ended up keeping me out of the MLS [Major League Soccer] Combine,” Ring said.
Luckily, the Rockford, Illinois native was drafted 17th overall by the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2009 MLS Super Draft despite the injury.
San Jose’s team doctors determined that Ring wasn’t receiving enough blood flow to his hips and would need potential career-ending surgery to fix the issue. He was left with two options: risk the surgery and his professional career or seek a second opinion.
Ring chose the latter of the two and concluded the best path to recovery was to completely deactivate his body. For eight months, Ring swam laps and did yoga.
“We choose to opt out of surgery and simply turn everything off,” Ring said. “It was a difficult time because I was putting my dreams on hold and my future was unclear.”
The gamble paid off. The following season, Ring returned to preseason training and signed his first professional contract with San Jose, pain free.
Soon after, Ring was traded to MLS side Portland Timbers, where he spent the 2013 season. His career with Portland lasted one year, but the short stay with the West coast side resulted in his return to the Hoosier state.
Ring’s return to Indiana didn’t land him back in Bloomington, but rather 57 miles north in Indianapolis. The midfielder signed with Indy Eleven in 2014, when he became one the members of the club’s inaugural team.
“Joining an expansion team is always a bit of a gamble because you don’t know what to expect,” Ring said. “But everything worked out better than expected and I’m thrilled to call Indy home.”
Ring is now the last remaining member of the 2014 inaugural team. He may not be Indy Eleven’s most prolific goal scorer, but his leadership in training and on the pitch makes him a vital squad member.
Ring has also adopted a leadership role off the pitch and has become one of the leading community, athlete advocates in Indianapolis. The midfielder dedicates time to Ring’s Reading Program, an initiative he created in 2016.
Ring’s goal is to share the benefits of an active lifestyle to children. During the program, he spends time reading books to young students, promoting the importance of exercise, and eating healthy.
Perhaps the most special thanks during Ring’s 100th game ceremony came from the supporter group that religiously cheers their “Boys in Blue”, the Brickyard Battalion.
Ring has long been a fan favorite of the Brickyard Battalion. So much so, the supporter group lifted a tifo that bore Ring’s 100 appearances during the pre-match ceremony.
The tifo wasn’t the Brickyard Battalion’s only show of gratitude for Ring that night. The dedicated group of fans also wanted to display their appreciation of Ring’s willingness to give back to the community.
Mike Williams, a supporter of the team since its founding, organized an event labeled Brad Ring Reads 100 Books.
“I wanted to do something to support his reading initiative,” Williams said. “I wanted to help him in what he does out in the community, which is read books at elementary schools.”
The idea was to donate 100 books to Ring’s Reading Program. Come time for the ceremony, the supporter group surpassed its initial goal, and collected a total of 135.
With the all-time appearances record to his name, a strong communal presence, and five years and counting with Indy Eleven, Ring has solidified his nickname as the “Legend”. He will remain just that; a legend, to the fans during, and after, the existence of “Indiana’s Team” and Ring’s career.
“I would like to finish my career here with Indy Eleven,” Ring said. “Hopefully holding up a trophy with my teammates.”