NFL’s Ninkovich honored by New Lenox Village Board
By Erin Gallagher For The Herald-News April 11, 2012 8:44AM
Rob Ninkovich, who played football at Lincoln-Way Central High School and now plays for the New England Patriots, was honored Monday by the New Lenox Village Board. | file photo
Updated: May 13, 2012 8:22AM
NEW LENOX — He is rough, and he is tough. He is also a hometown hero.
New Lenox honored the New England Patriot by declaring April 9, 2012, as Rob Ninkovich Day. The NFL linebacker is a former Lincoln-Way Central Knight, where he not only played football, but also lettered in baseball.
Ninkovich played in Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants. He had four tackles (three of which were solo), two quarterback hits and a half sack.
“How did it feel hitting Eli Manning,” asked Mayor Tim Baldermann.
“It felt pretty good,” Ninkovich told the village board Monday.
Ninkovich said that he wasn’t the biggest guy, and he wasn’t the fastest guy, but he learned how to use the skills he was given.
“Football was only a small part of my life, but it has taught me things I’m going to use forever,” he said.
For example, while playing for the New Orleans Saints, head coach Sean Payton looked him straight in the eye and told him he would never be anything but a long snapper for them. After being released from the Saints, he thought his career was over. That’s when he got signed by the Patriots as a free agent. Turned out, being released was the best thing that ever happened to him because he went on to make a name for himself, he said.
He said he loves coming home to New Lenox and staying with his parents. When he left, there was still only one high school.
“This is a great town to grow up in,” he said. “It’s always nice to be home.”
Ninkovich plans to marry Paige Popich from New Orleans on June 29. She said she likes New Lenox and likes coming back with him for visits.
“It’s an awesome little town,” she said.
“One day I want to settle down and really figure out what I want to do,” Ninkovich said. “I’ve got a little time.”