More Than Just a Foot

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jul 02, 2011

"Football is what I do; it is not who I am."
David Akers

Ever since 1999 David Akers has used his left foot to help the Philadelphia Eagles with football games. Five times he has made it to the Pro-Bowl (2001, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2010) as their left-footed placekicker. 

Raised in Lexington, KY, Akers attended college at the University of Louisville. During his four-year career, he kicked a school record - 36 field goals, the longest one being 51 yards against Texas A&M University. 

After college he tried for several years to earn a place on a professional football team in the National Football League as an undrafted free agent. He was cut by three different teams. Finally, the Philadelphia Eagles claimed him off waivers and allocated him to Europe to play for the NFL Berlin Thunder where he had a solid season. 

The Philadelphia Eagles gave him one more look and decided to sign him in 1999. That season Akers proved to be one of the biggest special team surprises in all of the NFL. In the years since then he has earned respect as one of the most consistent placekickers in all of the NFL. 

However, this column is not primarily about David Akers the football player, but rather David Akers the man. In a day when the sports world is often dominated by the extreme antics of the undisciplined and erratic behaviors of young men and women, David Akers is a refreshing exception. Sure, it is amazing to watch a professional athlete run, jump, throw, shoot or catch with incredible skill, but how sad it is to watch many of those same professional athletes become the worst role models for our children and grandchildren. 

David Akers is different. I wish you could have joined us here on our campus when he told us "the rest of his story." All of his athletic accomplishments deserve our appropriate accolades. But as David Akers said, "Football is what I do; it is not who I am." 

Who is David Akers? He has been a math teacher. He has been Erika's husband for 12 years. He is the father to Luke (9), Halley (6), and Sawyer (3). To look at his family picture and to hear of his professional career, one could think life has been very easy for him. 

But David and Erika have had three (3) miscarriages. Their precious daughter, Halley, had a rare form of cancer at age two requiring her left ovary to be removed. She will need to be monitored closely because the cancer could return in 20-25 years. In addition to health challenges, nearly two years ago David lost 10 out of 12 years of his salary through fraud. Now the future of the 2011-2012 football season is in doubt. "Sometimes I feel like I have nothing but fog in front of my face," he said. 

The most remarkable quality of David Akers which stood out to me was his gracious, humble spirit exuding from his deep, personal faith. As he shared the highs and lows of his story and then interacted with our students, it was obvious that he was not intoxicated with himself. How gracious he was to have his picture taken or to sign autographs or just to rub shoulders with average people like all of us. And though his schedule was tight, he gave personal time and attention to everyone who wanted to see him. 

As Horace Greeley said, "Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character." Erma Bombeck wisely cautioned us with these words, "Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other." 

It may be David Akers' left foot which the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans honor, but after observing him close up I will honor his heart most of all. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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