Rob Ninkovich, a former New England Patriot and two-time Super Bowl Champion, spent 11 years in the NFL before retiring. He now works as a commentator for ESPN. Ninkovich has a truly unique story of perseverance, from JUCO student out of high school, to his challenges at Purdue, then suffering an injury in his rookie season, and cut from multiple teams. Through it all, Ninkovich had the drive for success in the league in the passion and purpose he found in football. He tells Pro Mindset® Podcast host Craig Domann about the ups and downs of his career and the things he learned along the way.
“When I think about college I don't think about parties. I think about training and making sure that I had the grades so I just could play football. That was my number one. I had football on the brain. I wanted to be a great football player.”
Rob Ninkovich’s passion for football is unrivaled. In college, he spent his years at Purdue focused on football and making it to the NFL. He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round but tore his ACL during his rookie season. He battled hard to recover and return to the active roster only to be cut hours before his first game. A game which his family was driving hours to attend and had to turn around when he broke the news to them. Shortly after that, he was picked up by the Miami Dolphins where his talent got lost in the rebuild of a losing team. It wasn’t until he was signed by the New England Patriots that he truly had his shot. This story, being injured, being cut, not getting the best chance to show a team his talent is not an uncommon story for athletes. What makes Ninkovich’s story uncommon is that he kept coming back for more. His passion for football and his need to play drove him. Without the mindset of “football on the brain,” he might not have even made it to the NFL, and he definitely would not have made it to the Patriots. Passion is a key aspect of the Pro Mindset, and Rob Ninkovich is the perfect example of why.
“When I was a kid, I had goals written down and one was the play in the NFL.”
While dreaming of the NFL is not uncommon for a young boy, Rob Ninkovich continued to follow that dream into adulthood. His passion for football may have been his drive, but his purpose and planning made him successful. Other things on that list were to be a difference-maker in the NFL and to win a Super Bowl, both of which he accomplished. Setting goals was not something he only did as a boy, he kept it up throughout his entire career. He explained how that at the end of each season he would take the stickers from his helmet, put them on paper, and write his goals for the next season by them. Now retired, he has a box full of papers with his goals written on them. Planning and setting goals was a tradition he kept up from early on. An athlete's purpose is a large part of creating a Pro Mindset and planning has a role in that. It is not enough to have an unguided passion to be successful. There has to be purpose and planning involved to not just reach success but to define it as well. Throughout his career as a player, Ninkovich faced a great deal of adversity. Without setting goals, he would not have been able to return from his ACL tear or the tough blows of being cut from teams.
Rob Ninkovich embodies the Pro Mindset. His career was a roller coaster of adversity and battling through to eventually become a Super Bowl Champion. He exhibits a passion for the game and perseverance in the midst of adversity that few players do.
To hear more about Rob Ninkovich and his career listen here.