A basketball player at Winston-Salem State University before concentrating on football as a sophomore, Gadsden bounced around three different leagues before carving out his niche in Miami. He played in one game with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, then went from the World League of American Football to the Arena Football League before joining the Dolphins as a 27-year-old free agent in 1998.
But Gadsden made the most of his opportunity. He wound up starting 12 games for the Dolphins that year and finished with 48 catches for 713 yards (second on the team) and tied for the team lead with seven touchdown receptions. He duplicated those types of numbers for the next three years (1999-2001), including 56 catches in 2000 and 803 receiving yards in 1999. Gadsden then battled health issues that eventually ended his career after the 2003 season. He wound up starting all but six of the 74 games he played in Miami and finished with 227 catches for 3,252 yards and 22 touchdowns, which ranked among the Miami’s career receiving leaders at the end of his Dolphins tenure.
But after leaving the NFL, Gadsden didn’t leave South Florida, building business, teaching, and coaching careers there. And he had fun doing it.
“I had a marketing degree and always wanted to do something in the (clothing) field,” said Gadsden. “I worked for (former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver) Drew Pearson’s apparel company coming out of college and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps. During my first year with the Dolphins I put my ‘OG’ logo together just fooling around. I put the ‘O’ and the ‘G’ together and it was kind of cool. It fit the company I started, ‘Original Gear,’ and it stood for Oronde Gadsden. We decided to do the ‘OG’ and it worked.
“We started off with active wear; warmups, sweats, shorts, tee-shirts, hats, headbands, stuff like that. We had players around the NFL wearing my stuff. Willis McGahee had it on when he got drafted by the Bills that day. The clothes were in Burdines and other stores. It was pretty big at the time.”
“When I was handling the clothing line, I was doing a little of everything,” said Gadsden. “When you’re involved in the day-to-day operation of the company, you have to go out and find accounts and grow the business. I loved going around to find new business. After football, that’s how I stayed busy. I’d go to parks and get park accounts, I’d go to high schools to get high school accounts, help write the press releases, things like that.”
Sometimes, though, success brings its own issues.
“In 2006 the company went public,” said Gadsden. “Once you go public, it takes a lot of control out of your hands. You can’t do the day-to-day things any more. The control of the design and the marketing wound up in the hands of other people and they went in a different direction. So when the company went public I had to find something else to do. That’s when I began to teach.”
So Gadsden embarked on yet a third career, and found it as successful and rewarding as his first two.
“I went to the school system here, where I began to coach and teach,” said Gadsden. “From 2006 until 2012, I was the Athletic Director and wide receivers coach at Northeast High School and the Athletic Director at Westlake Prep Academy. For the last four years I’ve been coaching and teaching at American Heritage High School in Plantation.”
Not only did Gadsden enjoy his new responsibility, he found it gave him a unique opportunity to bond with his family and give back to the South Florida community that he, his wife, Bianke, and his two sons, Oronde and Gabriella, now call home.
“It’s cool working on the high school level,” said Gadsden. “You want to give back to the kids. Westlake Prep didn’t have a football team, so that’s when I started coaching youth football in Davie. I coached their tackle football program for five years – the Davie Broncos. My son, Oronde, played there. It was fun coaching him for a while, until he turned around nine. He was a wide receiver like me, but in a park program you get to play everywhere. You played wherever you were needed.
“Now at American Heritage I’m the wide receiver coach. I really enjoy it. I like working with the kids. You get to give them the knowledge that you have and that’s the fun part about it. You see them coming in as a freshman and leaving as a senior and they get to go to the college they want. It’s pretty rewarding.”
Gadsden quickly found out that coaching not only kept him connected to some of his teammates, but also to the game itself.
“I coach with a lot of my friends and former teammates,” he said. “Sam (Madison) is the coach at the park for 12 years, JT (Jason Taylor) coached for 13 years, and Pat (Surtain) is the head coach at American Heritage. So we get to see each other often.
“It’s fun to do that. You can’t beat being out there every day. That’s the closest thing you can get to the excitement of playing. Friday night – the lights, you’re playing, and you see your kids execute the play on a route the way you practiced the drill all week, and you win the game. It’s pretty rewarding.”
As visible as he may be on high school and recreational fields, he’s just as visible around the Dolphins, especially at many of the community projects they support.
“I try to help out at the Dolphins’ community events when I can,” he said. “It’s all predicated on giving back to the fans and the community who have supported us. Our fans were so helpful and gracious to me when I was playing. So I think the right thing to do is to give back by doing everything you can to help the community and help kids, and let everyone know there’s more to a person than just playing football. The Dolphins help me do that. I think they have the best alumni association in the NFL and they have us involved in so many of the team’s community events.
“Being involved with the team’s alumni activities has helped me transition from playing to becoming a vital part of the community. Whether it’s working in the community, coaching football here, or when I did a radio show, I owe it all to the Dolphins organization for helping me after my football career ended.
“I have great memories of my time with the Dolphins. If you ask all football players, they will tell you the relationships and the friendships that you make in the locker room will always be with you. You’ll always have that. So I’m grateful for that. The time I had in Miami was fantastic. It was a chance for me to prove myself, a chance to get to play and show that I could actually do it. I have nothing but fond memories of playing. Like anything you enjoy, you wish it could be longer. But I had a good time doing what I did and I did it to the best of my ability.”