By Vincent Briedis
On a cold and blistery February morning in 2011, Rosalind Proctor was making her way to work at the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., only days after the region was blanketed with four inches of snow. Around 5:30 a.m., as she made her way east on Interstate 66 in Fairfax, Va., an unlicensed driver swerved out of the way of a snow-covered lane, veering right into Proctor’s Chevrolet Tahoe SUV.
The impact forced Proctor’s vehicle over two lanes and into an embankment, ricocheting the vehicle into a 360-degree turn where two other cars were unable to swerve in time, rear-ending her and moving the vehicle into another lane with oncoming traffic approaching.
Thankfully, Proctor survived with minor injuries, but it was this incident that paved a path for her then-13-year old son, RJ, currently a junior offensive guard on the Virginia football team.
“Seeing my mother go through that rehab on her knee really intrigued me,” RJ Proctor said. “Watching her rehabilitation after that accident that really got me thinking about that field. I thought, you can sit here and work on something and it gets better? Even now when I get banged up and need treatment, I ask so many questions because it gives me a background and lets me know what I need to do and it can help me in my field.”
Rosalind Proctor will retire this year after a tremendous career that spans over 30 years with the Department of Transportation, where she currently serves a program manager and division chief. While her knee still experiences residual pain from the accident, she has seen how the event has shaped RJ’s approach in life.
“During this process, our family watched how RJ became more energized with educating himself through research, reading articles, watching documentaries, gathering expert testimonies and insight,” Proctor’s mom said. “We watched that learning manifest into his sincere and intense desire to not only help me, but help others to either eliminate or minimize their physical limitations, while helping them to discover their strengths and motivating them during their rehabilitative process. His persistence and tenacity tremendously help me through my rehab process both mentally and physically. He found that addressing both of those needs seemed to help me to feel better and get better sooner. Even now, he gives me his insight on dealing with my arthritic pain flair-ups.”
Helping others, especially his family, is a quality instilled in RJ from a young age. His family is his daily motivation.
“My mom is my everything,” Proctor said. “I want to buy her that house on the hill. Same thing for my dad (Ronald Proctor, Sr.). They have done everything for me to get me to the place that I am right now and the only way that I can thank them, the least that I can do, is just to work as hard as I can and hopefully have the opportunity to repay them, whether that is through a career in the NFL or life after football.
But Proctor’s NFL aspirations and further life success run deeper than just a want.
“Every kid growing up playing football wants to go to the NFL,” Proctor said. “But, do they really have a purpose? Nobody has a purpose until you find out what your WHY is. Why do I wake up every day and go to class, why do I sit here and do all of this (points around the UVA football building), why do I come into the McCue Center every day and try to work my tail off? For me, it is to spoil my mom and dad.”
The hard work by Proctor is evident to both his parents, who attend every game at Scott Stadium, as well as all the away games they can get to.
“We are extremely proud of all of the accomplishments RJ has made both academically and athletically at the University of Virginia,” Rosalind said. “To see him out on the field unselfishly giving everything he has to help his teammates, his coaches and his University is nothing less than admirable. To be able to be successful both in the classroom and on the field, while sustaining and surviving the physical and mental challenges placed on student-athletes are not taken lightly by us and shouldn’t be by anyway else.
We couldn’t be prouder of our son. He is a mature, young man with great morals and values, and a successful student and athlete. Every time he takes the field our emotions are in high-gear, our adrenaline is rushing and we’re full of excitement because we know RJ loves the game of football, he loves winning and he’s aggressively competitive.”
For RJ, looking up into the stands and seeing both his parents cheering him on is a blessing not lost on the junior. Reflecting back on how a few seconds on an icy road seven years ago could have dramatically reshaped the structure of his family, RJ smiles, acknowledging he has an awful lot to be thankful for.
“When I see my parents in the stands, it is an emotional roller coaster,” Proctor said. “Just being able to see my mom actually walk down the bleachers and sit down, that is humbling feeling because she easily couldn’t be here.”