INDIANAPOLIS — Gary Brackett knows a little something about dreaming big and succeeding. The former Indianapolis Colts linebacker will share his experiences as the keynote speaker for Thursday's 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Indiana Holiday Celebration at the Statehouse.
"We are honored to have Gary at the program to share the influence Dr. King has had on his life," Jamal Smith, Indiana Civil Rights Commission's executive director, said in a statement. "His rise to one of the best defensive players in the NFL is truly inspiring."
Brackett added, "I'm excited. I do a lot of speaking around town. I especially like the opportunity to speak with youth, give them some motivation."
He plans to talk about the importance of service, something Brackett does through his IMPACT Foundation, as well as aspiring to have a dream and seeing it through. Several Indianapolis school children will be in attendance for the program.
"Hopefully, I can inspire them," Brackett said.
He had plenty of his own afflatus growing up in Glassboro, N.J. It came from his brothers, who pushed him in football ("we were always playing in the yard") to a gym teacher who saw his potential ("she always talked with me about the importance of being a leader and having a proper image").
So when Brackett had to walk on Rutgers University's football team and was undrafted by the National Football League, it just motivated him to work harder.
"It's funny, when I initially was a walk-on I had a chip on my shoulder," Brackett said. "I wanted to go out and prove everyone wrong."
That meant staying longer in the weight room and outplaying everyone else on the field. As is well known now, that ethic paid off. Brackett was Rutgers' defensive captain and MVP his senior year. After signing with the Colts in 2003 as an undrafted free agent, he was named defensive captain in '06 and won the Super Bowl with the team that same year.