Hard Work Works: from FA Collegiate to Pro Football

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Perseverance. Grit. Tenacity. Confidence. 

That – plus amazing athleticism and skill – has earned Foundation Academy alum William “Bill” Hackett a professional football career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Canadian Football League's West Division champions.

Hackett, a Class of 2018 graduate, came to FA as a fifth-grader who loved playing Pop Warner football, and continued at FA Collegiate, where he played for the Trenton Central High School Tornadoes. On May 20, he plays his first professional preseason game as a defensive back against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“My family is a football family – it’s something I always wanted to do,” Hackett said in a call from the Blue Bombers training facility.  

Those who know Hackett are not surprised by his success. 

“Will has never shied away from putting in the work. Nor has he let the haters or doubters tell him what he can do,” said Chris Torino, a coach and former FA athletic director. “He is a leader.  In all the years of knowing him, I’ve seen how he made everyone around him better – and made them believe they can win!”

FA CEO Sheria McRae agreed.

"I am filled with immense pride to call 'little Billy' not just my nephew, but also my former FA scholar," Mrs. McRae said "Witnessing his unwavering dedication and perseverance in the face of challenges fills my heart with love and admiration.

"Despite the hurdles, he has remained steadfast in his commitment to excellence. Being both his aunt and his former teacher, I have seen firsthand his resilience and determination. He is no stranger to embracing high expectations, hard work, and rejecting excuses."

Hackett’s path to professional football was challenging. During senior year – when college scouts are eyeing prospects – Hackett broke his leg and missed most of the season. While recovering, he became more determined than ever to play football. True to his reputation for hard work, Hackett made it back on the field six weeks after his injury to play the final two season games. 

After graduating from FA Collegiate, Hackett enrolled in Milford Academy, a Division 1 level post-graduate football program in New York. Playing there, Hackett said, provided the opportunity to  get more exposure among team scouts and college programs. 

His next stop was Lackawanna Junior College. But the pandemic interrupted the usual recruiting process – many colleges and teams suspended recruiting and allowed players to remain an extra year as make-up for canceled games and abbreviated seasons. Hackett had to keep waiting – and working. 

“That actually made me hungrier, it made me want it more,” Hackett said. “Hard work, works. I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t give up.”

Hackett was awarded a full-ride scholarship to University at Albany. While playing there, he did everything necessary to fulfill his goal of playing professional football. 

“You push your tape out, attend pro days, and try to showcase your talent,” he said. ”I attended a CFL pro day and went to one of their workouts – I just kind of stood out.”

Hackett was in Trenton, riding home from his brother’s football game, when he got the phone call “Do you want to be a Blue Bomber?” Within 24 hours, he was in Winnipeg – his first time in Canada.

Since arriving in early May, Hackett’s days have been filled with training, studying game tapes, workouts, recovery and team meetings. He arrives at the training facility by 6:30 each morning – “extra early to have that edge” – and studies playbooks and tapes after dinner until lights out.

“Hard Work is what I do – that’s the main thing people know about me,” Hackett said. 

FA Collegiate College & Career Advisor John Salvetta credits Hackett’s hard work for his achievement.

“He always had confidence balanced with humility," Salvetta said. “The journey wasn’t straight and direct for him. But he always had a tenacity that separated him from the others.”

Tenacity is what turns a dream into reality, Hackett said. 

“That vision you have in your head– it can’t just be a vision,” he said. “Keep it in your head and your heart. Continue to work hard no matter the adversity. …If you are putting your all into it, you will continue to get better every day…

“You know what they say ‘Shoot for the moon and the worst thing that can happen is you land amongst the stars’.”

Michelle Ruess