Ken Harvey: An Outstanding Role Model

An Outstanding Role Model
Gains a Boatload of Wisdom From Every Experience, Including Mistakes

Ken Harvey believes in second chances. “Mistakes happen,” says the former linebacker for the Phoenix Cardinals and the Washington Redskins and current Washington Redskins Director of Responsibility. “What matters in life is how effectively you rally after making and recognizing a misstep.”

Ken Harvey 350Ken’s own missteps, from his perspective, date back to his decision to drop out of high school despite the urging of his coach and parents to stay in school and work hard. After leaving high school, he fell into a rut of destructive thought patterns. “Once you start thinking you’re not much good for anything, you resign yourself to getting the lowest-paying job, or you go to an interview but you’re not fully prepared. Then you wonder why you’re not getting a better job or you’re not making it. It’s because you’ve set your standards low and everything around you has become that standard.”

One day he picked up a newspaper to see what kind of job he could hope to have without a high school diploma. The prospects, he realized, were grim. He knew he would need to set the bar higher for himself. But doing so was a gradual process. “I had a plan as to how I was going to get into college.  I worked out every day and lifted weights and ran.  I stopped going to parties …. I started hanging around good people.”

And he prayed. “I said, ‘God, give me a plan, give me a vision,’ and it felt like to me like God was saying, ‘You are worth something.  You have a destiny, you have a purpose, you are worth something.’“ He applied to a junior college in Oakland, California. From there, he earned a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to play in the NFL – all because he had learned the importance of believing in his own self-worth.

He played 11 seasons with the NFL, but that was only the beginning of a fascinating and varied professional life. His concerted effort to be better at reaching out to people so improved his sense of himself that he went on to become a motivational speaker and then later started his own Business development company called Jaka consulting group. In 2008 he acquired the title of Washington Redskins Director of Responsibility, a groundbreaking position developed in partnership with DIAGEO, the world’s leading premium drinks business.

The partnership and proactive corporate social responsibility stance enables Ken to act as a resource and advisor in the development of responsibility initiatives focused on education and advocacy across the Redskins organization and local community. “It’s an outreach program,” Ken explains. “We have coaches and players talking about responsible drinking, but the most visible element of their endeavor is a safe rides program that runs during the holiday season and enables adults to get a safe ride home if they’ve had too much to drink.”

His creativity has allowed him to write books, while also making the most of his opportunity to help the world through his partnership with DIAGEO. “I always try to stress that I’m not perfect.  I make a lot of mistakes.  I continue to make mistakes, but by the grace of God, I’m trying to get better every day.  We all have issues that we struggle with, but I’m trying always to grow.”

His wish to make the world a better place recently took a dramatic and positive turn when he traveled to Haiti representing DIAGEO after the January earthquake. “We went out on the streets and saw earthquake survivors just walking around with no place to go. We saw all the rubble and the buildings destroyed. But then you see signs of hope. You see kids laughing.  I saw one lady who was clearing out all the debris and stuff right around her just to keep her own little area clean. You see people trying to do their best. Hopefully, one day I’ll go back to Haiti and see a difference.”

In a way, it all goes back to his decision to go back to high school after dropping out: an attitude of persistence that has stayed with him ever since. “I believe in second chances.  I believe in that we can help each other out.  I always try to look at the hope and the good inside of people.  I think that’s it.  No matter what, if you look deep enough, there is good in almost everyone.”

With his belief in the fundamental goodness of every human soul and his ceaseless quest for self-improvement, Ken Harvey emanates the exemplary values of an Insightful Player® team member.

Instant replay of Ken’s guiding principles:

  1. Maintain high standards for yourself. Low standards become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
  2. When you fall into negative ways of thinking, implement new and better habits that will help you make positive changes.
  3. Rather than wallowing in regrets or reliving mistakes, use where you are as a starting point and move upward from there.
  4. Make it a lifetime goal to keep raising the bar for yourself. Have ever-higher expectations for what you can do.
  5. Surround yourself with positive role models and well-meaning people from whom you can learn.
  6. Mistakes happen. Growth comes from recognizing when you did something wrong and correcting it.
  7. Have goals at all levels of your life.
  8. Believe in the inherent worth and goodness of everyone you meet.
  9. Be a good listener. Give people your time and attention. Respect what they want to say.
  10. Be able to envision a better future and use that as a benchmark to work toward.

The Insightful Player® series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Hall of Fame Master Certified Personal and Business Coach and Author of INSIGHTFUL PLAYER: Football Pros Lead A Bold Movement of Hope.  Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr.  Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills.  The Insightful Player® initiative was created to help make our world a much better place by inspiring youth. To contact Chrissy Carew visit or call 603-897-0610.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.