Always set goals for yourself, and then make a plan for achieving them.
That was the core piece of advice NFL All-Pro kicker Neil Rackers shared with Heathwood’s 4th graders when he visited with them on August 22.
Rackers, who played college football with 4th-grade teacher Leah Fitts’ husband, Steven, at the University of Illinois, holds NFL records for the most field goals of 55 yards or more in one quarter, the most field goals of 50 yards or more in one game, and the most tackles by a kicker over a 10-year period. Over a 12-year NFLcareer, he played for the Bengals, Texans, and, most notably, the Cardinals, with whom he played in the 2009 Super Bowl.
After speaking about the importance of setting and working toward goals, Rackers fielded questions from the students, who wanted to know everything from when he started playing football to what it felt like to play in the Super Bowl to whether, as a football player, he was also a baseball fan.
Rackers said that he was indeed a baseball fan, but that as a St. Louis native, he took some heat from his grandfather, “the biggest St. Louis Cardinals fan in the world,” when he signed with Arizona, because they were “the wrong Cardinals.”
Rackers’ own football career demonstrates just how far ambitious goal-setting can take someone. He didn’t start playing football until partway through his sophomore year of high school, but was still able to parlay a talent for kicking that he’d initially discovered as a soccer player into a Division-One college scholarship.
Playing in the Super Bowl, he said, was “very nerve-wracking. I had to do the kickoff to start the whole game, and that was the most nervous moment of my football career.” But being on the football field was always exciting too, he said.
Even Rackers’ retirement from football in 2012 reflected his philosophy of continually setting and pursuing goals. “When I was in the NFL, my goals was always to be an All-Pro player,” he said. “But after 12 years, I had a new goal, to bring my family back home to St. Louis, where my wife and I went to high school together.”
Now coaching and working in medical equipment sales, Rackers also enjoys speaking to students whenever he can about what athletics can teach us about life. The biggest thing sports have taught him is—no surprise—that setting goals for yourself is the key to achieving your dreams.