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Rackley wins NFL's 2013 Ed Block Courage Award

A leader both on the field and in the community, Will Rackley ’11 was recognized by the Ed Block Foundation for dedication to his teammates and to philanthropy.

The Mountain Hawks won the ninth of Lehigh’s ten Patriot League Football Championships when Rackley was a senior in 2010-11.

Will Rackley ’11, a three-time All-Patriot League honoree and starting offensive guard for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, was recently named a 2013 Ed Block Courage Award Winner.

The award is presented annually to one member of each NFL team, in recognition of players who are committed to the principles of sportsmanship, courage and dedication in returning from injury or illness. Teammates vote to decide winners each year. Recipients were recognized at the 35th annual Ed Block Courage Awards Banquet in Baltimore, Md. on March 17.

“It's an honor to be voted by my peers to receive such an award. It feels great to know that they think highly of me,” said Rackley, an offensive lineman now entering his fourth season with Jacksonville. “I love playing for the Jags. They've given me many opportunities, and the fans always show love.”

After starting every game over his four year career in Brown and White, Rackley started 14 of the Jaguars’ 16 games as a rookie in 2011. However, he missed the entire 2012 season due after undergoing surgery to repair an ankle injury he suffered during training camp. Rackley returned to full strength in time for the 2013 season, and started 11 games for the Jaguars while overcoming a concussion and a knee injury. Despite the adversity, Rackley was determined to return to the team and contribute on the field.

“You just have to realize that injuries are a part of the game,” said Rackley, who studied design arts at Lehigh. “One thing that helps me is just focusing on my personal goals and my loyalty to the team to be at my best.”

“Will is very deserving of this honor, for all the work he put in to get back on the field,” said Gus Bradley, Jacksonville’s head coach. “He was a constant in the weight room and the training room when our staff arrived here in January, with all his focus on returning to the playing field. His work ethic and commitment didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates through the process. He is a diligent worker on the field and well-respected by everyone in the organization.”

That Rackley was selected by his teammates for such an honor comes as no surprise to Lehigh football head coach Andy Coen. Since graduation, Rackley has maintained his connection to the program and his teammates, having attending the 2012 Lehigh-Lafayette game, the 2013 football banquet and participating in the Lehigh Athletics Partnership.

“Will connected well with everyone on our team; he was humble and had time for each teammate,” said Coen, Lehigh’s head coach since 2006. “To say that his teammates respected him would be an understatement. He was a real pleasure to coach.”

When Jacksonville selected Rackley in the third round (76th overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft, he became the highest-drafted player in Patriot League football history. He is one of two Mountain Hawks currently on NFL rosters; Ryan Spadola ’13 split time with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins during the 2013 season. Their careers overlapped for two seasons at Lehigh, and their relationship has continued in the NFL.

“I had the chance to play against Ryan in the preseason [against the Jets],” said Rackley. “He did an awesome job and is being a real professional.”

Off the field, Rackley has dedicated himself to service in the Jacksonville community, having spent many hours volunteering in local schools and hospitals. Rackley is supporter of the Cathedral Arts Project in Northeast Florida, and he has also volunteered with the Sulzbacher Center and Dignity-U-Wear, organizations that work to end homelessness and offer resources to children in need.

“As a kid, I knew what it felt like to be less fortunate, so whenever I have a chance to give back, I go for it,” said Rackley. “I have been blessed with so much that it is only right to try and bless others.”

Story by Karl Brisseaux '11

Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2014

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