Name: Will Rackley
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Position: Left Guard
Every time I turn around, Will Rackley is volunteering, posing with adoring fans or giving his time. I hounded him for an interview for months, and after much procrastination on my end– here goes!
Will began his journey of service with teammates at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
“A couple of guys would go out in the community and feed the homeless,” he said.
Growing up, you could find him and his brothers at the Seabrook Recreation Center. They ate there, played there, and for Will, that’s where he got his start playing football. No doubt about it. The coaching and mentoring he received there helped shape him into the man he is today. It also served as motivation to give back. By the time he got to the League in 2011, his efforts increased. The more of himself he gave, the more reward he felt.
“I get a kick out of going and visiting kids or people in need. Doctors coming back and saying that’s the first time they’ve smiled in a week. I think football is kind of a stepping stone to get out and help people.”
Things took a sudden turn before the 2012 season. Will tore some ligaments in his ankle during OTA’s and had to have surgery. It sidelined him for the whole season, but he still managed to be productive. When guys would head to the field, he would simply head to the nearest volunteer opportunity.
“While they were playing and training, I was hurt and just resting– so I tried to go out and visit special needs kids or kids in hospitals. I also fed the less fortunate for Christmas and Thanksgiving.”
I asked Will about his most memorable visit. He has two, one which involves a little girl named Samantha. She has cystic fibrosis, which can be terminal. Her family also has some medical issues, but that doesn’t stop them from cheering for the Jags and wearing a smile. Samantha’s spirit and fight to live strike a chord with Will. So much so, they still keep in touch (see picture slideshow). A Special Olympics event at Atlantic Coast High School also stands out. Will got the chance to coach a team, and boy were his pupils excited! Even though the kids had special needs, they knew tons of football stats and were smart as a whip.
Those kinds of memories make Will want to have a lasting impact. When he can, he’ll start something up and put his name on it.
“I do want to start a foundation. Something to do with kids. Maybe something with asthma, because I have asthma pretty bad,” he explained.
By far, Will was one of my favorite Jaguars (now of the Baltimore Ravens). Not because of his play on the field, but for his contribution behind the scenes. I have a lot of respect for a man who puts others before himself and leads by example. As for football, he’s been cleared from his injury and is gearing up to return to competition. With a new regime running the show, fans can expect to see some exciting things, not just from the team, but from #65– who’s willing to go the distance. When asked how he wants to be remembered when it’s all said and done, here’s what he said:
“I want people to say ‘he’s a great football player, but an even better person.”
Sounds good to me.
((Update to story: Rackley now plays for the Baltimore Ravens))