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NFL Rookie Ennis Rakestraw holding letter he wrote next to his 4th grade teacher.
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4th-Grader Makes a Promise to His Teacher; 12 Years Later, the NFL Star Delivers

NFL rookie, Ennis Rakestraw Jr.'s heartwarming letter to his fourth grade teacher just went viral.

Back in fourth grade while other kids were playing outside at recess, Ennis Rakestraw Jr. was writing his favorite teacher a letter and making him a promise.

Someday? He was going to become a professional football player and talk about him.

He just made good on his promise.


The Letter a Fourth Grader Wrote To His Teacher

Ennis was 10 years old when he met the teacher who would have an incredible impact on his life, Mr. Gammon.

On the last day of fourth grade at Hastings Elementary School (Duncanville, Texas), Ennis decided to write his teacher a letter. He wanted to thank him for believing in him and giving him the confidence to pursue his dreams.

In it, he wrote:

"You are the best teacher ever. You always had and have my back, and you give me confidence. When my little brother had a seizure, you gave me food and snacks."

He continued, writing that he wished he didn't have to leave him but hoped that Mr.Gammon would visit him at his new school.

And then he made his teacher a promise:

"I hope you miss me like I miss you and I hope you're alive because if I make it to a professional football player, I will talk about you."

He never forgot it.

Recently, he shared the letter on social media...right after being drafted into the NFL.

He captioned his post, "4th grade I made this commitment and if I make a promise. I’ll keep it no matter how difficult it is."

An Incredible Full-Circle Moment

NFL rookie Ennis Rakestraw Jr. with his fourth grade teacher, Mr. Derek Gammon

@_6.2strong_/Instagram


Turns out, Derek Gammon didn't forget it either. He held onto the letter — for more than ten years.

A few months ago he sent it to Ennis's mom, Shamika Jones. It was the first she knew of it. However, it didn't surprise her, she credits Mr. Gammon as one of the most influential people in her son's life.

“He helped build character. He helped build confidence in a child that, at that time, was unsure," she said.

Jones was three days shy of her 16th birthday when she had Ennis. As a teenage, single mom she was bombarded with people telling her she'd never succeed. And neither would her son.

“I was torn down, close people to me, I just heard a lot of negativity of what I couldn’t do, what he was not going to do. So, from a young age, I taught him, ‘You’re going to have to be the one to prove the world wrong about us.'"

Shamika Jones via NBC News

He did it.

Ennis became one of the top cornerback prospects in the 2024 draft. Last month, he was drafted by the Detroit Lions. One of only 0.016% of hopeful football players that make it to the NFL.

And his old teacher? Got to witness it firsthand.

According to NBC News, Mr. Gammon, now the principal of Mansfield ISD's Anna May Daulton Elementary School, was standing behind his former student when the announcement was made at his NFL draft party.

He was more than proud. And he couldn't help but take credit for throwing a few touchdowns on the pro.

"You put it out there at 10 years old and made it happen!!! I have no words for how proud I am of you!" He wrote on X. "Also, I’m telling everyone I played with and against you and threw multiple touchdowns to you and on you. Yes, it was recess…but it's technically true! Again, SO PROUD!"

The Power of Good Teachers

kids in elementary school sitting on blue carpet listening to teacher.people sitting on blue carpetPhoto by CDC on Unsplash

Teachers are society's unsung heroes.

It takes a very special individual to educate and nurture other children as their own. And while some teachers are better than others, the good ones — the ones who believe in their students' potential and support them unconditionally — really can make a powerful impact that lasts a lifetime.

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