A Quiet Leader in Johns Creek
At the end of his football career, Hines Ward’s career seemed to have hit a peak. After leading his team to two Super Bowl victories and being named Super Bowl XL MVP, Ward retired his jersey, and his life took an unexpected turn when he won “Dancing with the Stars” Season 12. With a presence spanning across multiple platforms, Ward’s passion and drive inspires millions across America, but behind-the-scenes, his journey comes down to one crucial figure with an exemplary career of his own: Andrew Ree.
Before Ward began his career in the NFL, Ward caught Ree’s eye when he was just 15 years old on the cover of the Atlanta Journal Constitution with his Korean mother. Impressed by Ward’s pride in his biracial heritage, Ree contacted Ward to commend him, fostering a relationship that would last a lifetime.
“I just wanted him to know that there were many Korean Americans who were proud of him owning his biracial identity,” Ree says. “About two weeks later, Hines called me and said he was getting so much attention from all types of colleges and wanted to know if I would help him and his mom understand it all. The rest is history.”
Growing up as a first-generation Asian American in Tallahassee, Ree experienced his own adversities in embracing his Korean heritage, which largely contributed to his immediate connection with Ward. As he grew older, he recognized the importance of maintaining and understanding his ethnic background and incorporated key qualities of his culture into his work ethic.
“The ethnic part of my background has taught me the value of humility at all times, but it’s also taught me the value of interpersonal relationships,” Ree says. “That’s how I treat my job; people are much more important than paper.”
While Ree had an interest in sports during school, his father pushed him towards his studies, and Ree later compromised, rekindling his passion in merging the two together as a sports agent with his own law firm. From dealing with cases of automobile accidents and injuries to managing clients in the sports and entertainment industries, Ree continues to value his independence, a choice which reflects his personal drive in upholding the quality of his work to his own standards.
“I love challenges. That’s the thing that really drives me the most,” Ree says. “I’m an individual. I had to find a different route, learn that different route, then make solid connections that’ll last me a lifetime. It’s a good feeling of success when you’re able to overcome odds.”
In addition to his professional work, Ree speaks to local teenagers in Johns Creek about his experiences and path to success, forging connections as a mentor to ambitious students in their respective fields. Former Johns Creek High School students Mikala Sanders and Ben Thompson first met Ree when he was invited to speak to their marketing class. Ree became their mentor, relaying his expertise to them throughout their high school and college years, and their greatest takeaway was Ree’s tenacity in obtaining his aspirations.
“His biggest strength about being a leader is that he’s just so caring about other people’s success,” Sanders says. “He just never stopped believing in us and never stopped pushing us, giving us all these projects he knew we could complete even if we didn’t believe in ourselves.”
Ree’s perseverance and compassion are characteristics he prides himself on, instilling these characteristics in the students he works with. He finds these leadership skills to be universally applicable, ensuring a positive and amicable relationship with all people he works with.
“Compassion is an essential ingredient, that you identify with somebody’s concerns and their needs, and drive, that’s a big one, the perseverance aspect,” Ree says. “There’s a way around everything; there’s a way to get to something.”
Whether dealing with football players on the field or students in a classroom, Ree’s consistent dedication to pursuing his best self resonates throughout his work and the community, establishing him as a positive role model to the young and old seeking the motivation and means to attain their dreams.