Jessica Rightmer’s time on the soccer field may have drawn to a close last fall, but she has embodied what a student athlete should be by embracing the opportunities that have come her way the last 4 years.
Originally from Austin, Texas, Rightmer grew up with the dreams of playing soccer professionally. Her hard work in the classroom and on the field landed her an opportunity to come to Auburn.
“When I was growing up, I kept thinking I was going to be a soccer player forever, and I was going to be like Mia Hamm,” she said. “Then I got into high school and started considering colleges and realized I didn’t have any of my goals lined up, and that scared me.”
The prospect of Jessica going to school away from home was one that she and her father, Charles Rightmer, a former college gymnast at the United States Air Force Academy, shared.
“I wanted to get away from home,” Jessica said. “But when I got to Auburn, I felt like everything that I had been taught growing up kicked in and came together.”
Charles knew that the distance would help his daughter reach her goals and potential, on and off the field.
“My wife was apprehensive, but I knew she would be taken care of by Auburn,” Charles said. “Did I think it was the best thing? Yes. She’s built a great support system in Auburn.”
Jessica came to Auburn confident in her ability, but she quickly realized skill would only go so far.
“Coming in, I thought I was pretty good (at soccer),” Jessica said. “But it occurred pretty quickly during freshman year that I needed to work harder. That summer, I pushed myself beyond physical limits I never thought possible. From that point on, I felt like a key component on the field, and I felt like I was needed on the field to win.”
The feeling Jessica had of bringing something important to the field not only resulted in her being named team captain in 2012, but is also reflected in her view of her academics.
“I remember when she was growing up, how good she made other people feel,” Charles said. “I could always tell she put others first.”
Jessica’s philosophy on giving back has influenced her academic plans.
“When you’re born, you can’t choose what background or circumstance you’re born in to, and I feel like I’ve been very blessed. I just want to help others,” Jessica said.
She graduated from Auburn with a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and a minor in human development and family studies. She is planning to return to graduate school at Auburn for audiology in the fall.
“I’m focusing on audiology, and my long-term goal is to go help underprivileged people by giving free hearing tests and donating some money to help for cochlear implants and other things that they need,” Jessica said.
Charles is not surprised about her career path.
“She’s very good with kids; they gravitate to her,” Charles said. “To see her in a field where she is giving back is not surprising.”
Jessica’s ability on the soccer field has paved the way for these chances to make a difference. Without soccer, Jessica doesn’t feel she would have been given the same chances, and she is grateful.
“My experience at Auburn has been the best I could have ever had,” Jessica said. “I feel that I’ve grown in so many areas because of soccer and because of my involvement on the team. I never had time to procrastinate, and because of soccer, everything lined up the way it needed to.”