I once put together a press conference involving retired Green Bay Packer running back John Brockington.
Well, sort of. The truth is it’s a rather strange story.
The press conference took place in 1997 when I was public information officer for Woodbridge Township. A few of the New York Giants were coming to town for a benefit basketball game against a group of Woodbridge police officers. To help promote the game, I planned the press conference and asked the police officer who was organizing the benefit if he could arrange for any of the pro football players to attend. I knew it would help attract reporters and possibly make for a good photo op or two.
The police officer checked and told me that none of the Giants were available, but John Brockington who was NFL Rookie of the Year in 1971, had agreed to take part. Brockington, the officer told me, lived in the area, and had befriended some of the Giants. Apparently, he was a man with a big heart who frequently took part in charity events and benefits.
I had vague recollections of Brockington as a player. His career was brief, but he did achieve several honors. In addition to his Rookie of the Year award, Brockington was named to the Pro Bowl three times and was the first NFL player to rush for 1,000 or more yards in each of his first three seasons.
When he showed up for our press conference, he fit the part, signing a few autographs beforehand and rattling off statistics from his playing years. He joked that he almost declined the invitation for the Woodbridge benefit because the police officer who invited him was a Dallas Cowboy fan. He also said his record of gaining 1,000 yards in his first three seasons should still stand because he accomplished the feat when the NFL season was only 14 weeks long.
The press conference went well. Brockington was joined by our police chief and business administrator, who lauded the event and urged people to attend. We also had a representative from the local chapter of the American Red Cross, who explained all of the wonderful services the benefit game would help fund.
Most importantly, the press conference served its primary purposes by generating news stories so that people would learn about the game and possibly attend. Unfortunately, one of the folks who learned about the event was John Brockington – not the kind-hearted Good Samaritan who took part in the press conference, but the real John Brockington who was living in San Diego and apparently not too happy that he had an impostor on the East Coast.
It was a bizarre situation on many levels. Of all the people to impersonate, why choose an NFL player who had been retired for years? And the fake John Brockington apparently wasn’t reaping any money by claiming he was a retired professional football player. Far from it, he may have boosted the real Brockington’s image because he used the running back’s name when he did charity work in places such as St. Augustine Episcopal Church in Asbury Park, where he served as a volunteer for the church’s soup kitchen.
“He really has a heart of gold,” an official at St. Augustine’s told The Star-Ledger after the story of the bogus identity broke. “He didn’t stand to gain financially,” the official added.” He just seemed to want to help raise money for good causes.”
I never heard from John Brockington again – the real one or the fake one. And the benefit basketball game ultimately raised $21,000, so I guess the story does have a happy ending. It also serves as proof that, if you spend your career in government and politics in New Jersey, sooner or later you are going to see everything.
After this post, I did hear from the real John Brockington — at least indirectly. Diane Brockington from the John Brockington Foundation emailed to set the record straight, and the real story truly has a happy ending.
According to Diane, Brockington “heads a foundation that has raised money for years for kidney related causes. He is on the Board of Directors of Donate Life America, has been named local Health Hero, received a 2010 HRSA award, logs many an hour with dialysis and transplant patients, runs the largest patient emergency fund in Southern California, and has been the subject of numerous news stories, including a piece on ESPN. The John Brockington Foundation’s Super Bowl party last Sunday and his Pro Athletes for Life Galas over the past nine years have included his friends, former teammates from OSU and the NFL, as well as greats from other sports: Bill Walton, Jack Tatum, Ben Davidson, Aaron Taylor, MacArthur Lane, Willie Buchanon, Ron Mix, Lance Alworth, Coach Steve Fisher…and many others.”
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