On September 19, former NFL running back Tim Hightower ’04 returned to The Holy Hill to share a powerful message on successful leadership strategies with the fall sports captains. During his time at EHS, Hightower earned six varsity letters in football, basketball, and track. He continued his athletic career at the University of Richmond, joining the school’s Hall of Fame in 2012. He was eventually drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and scored the winning touchdown in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, sending his team to Super Bowl XLIII.
Hightower began his speech walking down memory lane, taking the audience through his first visit to Episcopal, where he admittedly felt “a little lost.” Despite his uncertainty, he expressed gratitude for his deep connection to the School, which he now considers a home away from home.
Reflecting on his athletic journey, Hightower highlighted five essential leadership qualities that helped him as an athlete and man: vision, conflict, standard, accountability, and sacrifice. “When you wear that captain on your chest, it’s a mindset that says, ‘It’s not about me,’” he reflected. Even as an eleventh-grade transfer, Hightower knew the impact he wanted to make. This vision was his driving force and propelled him to his collegiate career.
Drawing from a personal NFL story, Hightower emphasized embracing conflict and adversity. While he played for the Saints, one of the coaches referenced the pay difference between him and his teammate Adrian Peterson. “At the time, Adrian was making more money than me,” Hightower reflected. “I pulled my coach to the side and asked him what he meant by that, and he said, ‘Leaders always find a solution when things break down; when problems occur, leaders emerge. You’ll get compensated and valued for the problem that you’re willing to step up and solve.’” From that moment, Hightower recognized the importance of pushing through conflict and adversity without excuses.
Hightower reassured students that establishing a team culture is the fastest way to set a standard and embolden their teammates to compete for the program. He reminisced about a college teammate who missed a 6 a.m. workout. “My teammate overslept, so we jogged to his dorm and knocked on the door. He opened the door to see 70 guys upset, and I told him to ‘put your shoes on because we workout as one team, and we’re going to need you this season.’” Later that year, Hightower tore his MCL, and his teammate, who overslept, had to fill in for him the rest of the season. “That one incident allowed my teammate to understand the culture of the team and the standard of excellence we were striving to create,” he said.
Hightower’s speech resonated with the students as he shared valuable lessons on leadership, vision, teamwork, and sacrifice. His anecdotes inspired students seeking to become influential leaders in their respective sports. He left them with the challenge to create a shared vision, embrace conflict, set high standards, and prioritize the team’s success over individual interests.
View the photos from the event here