To say that Raheem Brock’s life has come full circle would be an accurate summary of the Temple graduate-turned NFL athlete’s career.
The man who dedicated four years of college to playing hard for a team that didn’t win many games is now a major contributor for the Indianapolis Colts, entering his ninth professional season with a championship to his credit.
Brock, who balanced football with working multiple jobs while in college to provide for himself and his family, can now sit at a table at Wingstop, a restaurant he owns across the street from his alma mater.
“A lot of things happened growing up in Philly,” Brock said. “A lot of ups and downs, a lot of distractions, a lot of violence. I came to school and had to work two or three jobs to provide for my mom and my two daughters I had by that time. But the only thing I knew how to do was work hard.”
Since graduating from Temple in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in business management, Brock has moved on from the struggling life he once led in Philadelphia, but he has not forgotten or left behind the city and people who helped get him where he is today.
Brock, who was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles but released when the team did not allocate enough money in its rookie salary pool, plans to open at least two more restaurants in the city within the coming years, adding to his multiple Philadelphia-based philanthropic efforts.
“I know how hard it is to be successful, so I just feel fortunate,” he said. “Since I had so much help, I like to come back to inspire young kids and try and influence the younger generation.”
The athlete who comes from struggle, makes it big and returns to his city to give back, is a story told many times over, and one that is sometimes not as good as it seems.
But Brock, as much as anybody could, truly cares about his city.
“I spend about six months out of the year here,” Brock said. “During the season I come back whenever I can, to talk to kids, work with my foundation, anything I can.”
Brock’s foundation, Brock’s Kids, recently sponsored a personal tour of the Indianapolis Colts’ stadium, field and locker room for a Philadelphia high school football team.
Although Brock may be playing in his prime, his focus goes beyond football.
“I’ve got a lot of things in my mind. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here with all the wear and tear on my body,” Brock said. “You wake up pretty much every morning during the season, and your body is killing you. I love this game, and I’ll play as long as I can. But I always tell people, it’s important to have something to fall back on.”
The fact that things never came easy for Brock has worked to his credit. He said things are not “just what you see on Sundays.” In fact, he could relate it to the years he once spent in school.
“One of the hardest parts of playing this game is studying,” he said. “It’s like you’ve got a final every Sunday, and you get new material every Monday, to prepare for a different team every week. I usually work from 8 a.m. until 6:30 at night. You have to work hard because everybody is trying to take your spot every year.”
Brock’s hard work does not end on the football field. He said he has talked with Mayor Michael Nutter about future initiatives for his foundation, and he has his annual celebrity birthday weekend planned in June, where he will celebrate his birthday, as well as have football camps and a bowling fundraiser. And although nothing is set in stone yet, he plans to use his business knowledge to do more things in the future.
“Football is just a stepping stone, like anything in life. I always wanted to open a business since high school, didn’t know what it was though,” Brock said. “Now I have [Wingstop], and I hope to get into things like real estate in the future. I just feel blessed to be able to come home and feel like the city still has my back. And to have a business on my old college campus – it’s amazing.”
For the immediate future, Brock hopes to add a little more of himself to the restaurant.
“I’m gonna try and do some redecorating and add some of my jerseys and other Temple guys that played in the NFL. Just give it a little more of a sports atmosphere,” he said.
Although Brock is often around at his restaurant checking up on things, it would probably be best if he stayed away a little more than he does.
“Man, I try and stay away from here because I’m on my diet, and I just started training and stuff,” Brock said, laughing. “But it’s hard. These wings are addictive.”
Gabriel Katz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.