One beautiful quality that children possess is the ability to dream big. My sons have shown interest in becoming astronauts, pilots, inventors, Navy SEALs, and even karate masters.
From the time that he was a little boy, Haloti Ngata had one dream — to play professional football for the NFL. As a fifth grader, Haloti proudly informed his teacher of his career goal. Instead of encouraging him, she was quick to say that this was not only an unrealistic pursuit, but it would be near to impossible to accomplish and he had better pick a different career goal.
Flash forward 22 years and Haloti is a 5-time Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle for the NFL, a Super Bowl champion, and current defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions. He is also a father to three boys and recently attended his son’s career day — armed with some valuable advice for the students.
Haloti’s wife, Christina Ngata, shared a private post to Facebook documenting the event. It reads:
“When Haloti was in 5th grade, he told his teacher he was going to be a famous NFL player. The teacher told him that was next to impossible and to pick a different career goal. This is Haloti 22 years later (defying all the odds) speaking to a second grade class (Sam’s) about his 11 years in the NFL. I loved how he encouraged the students to follow their dreams, work hard and most importantly get their education.”
Haloti tells Babble that he felt let down by his teacher and disappointed, but that he never let it stop him from chasing his dream. He also acknowledges the importance of education and presented a chart to the students based on statistics from a 2013 study by the NCAA that breaks down the probability of making it to the NFL. The chart also points out that those who do make it, will be lucky to play for three years and that what they earn may not be enough to live on for the rest of their life. Because of this, Haloti told the students, it’s important to pursue an education so that you have something to fall back on.
Haloti’s son’s teacher told Christina that her students often tell her of their lofty dreams of becoming famous. She says she encourages their dreams, while also suggesting a back-up plan. But while her words are sure to have an impact on her students, I imagine that it was a powerful lesson for the children to meet someone who has worked so hard his whole life to make his biggest dream come true. After all, they had a larger-than-life NFL football player right there in their classroom!
Haloti’s love for the game of football runs deep and he says that if he hadn’t made it to the NFL then he would have liked to coach high school football because he enjoys helping people and working with kids. Haloti and Christina established The Haloti Ngata Family Foundation that is dedicated to promoting education and helping others.
When asked how they would feel if any of their three boys wanted to pursue football, Christina admits that it is something they have discussed often. She says that they will cross that bridge “when [the kids] get older,” and that for now they want to expose them to all sports. She would like for them to discover what they are passionate about on their own, whether that is sports or something else. As they grow, if they want to pursue football she admits she “won’t be able to say no.”
Sometimes, we all need a reminder that dreams can come true and goals can be reached. It is also important to teach our children about the hard work and sacrifices that these dreams require, while not declaring them impossible. I am fortunate to know Haloti Ngata and he is a big man with a huge heart, and on that day for those kids, a hero.More On