When you think of the number 42, many people think of Jackie Robinson, Mariano Rivera, Ronnie Lott, or even Sid Luckman. When Packers fans see the number 42, they think of the big bruising running back that gave the Packers a reason for hope in the early 1970s. With the ninth pick of the 1971 NFL Draft, the Packers selected running back John Brockington.
An Interview With Green Bay Packers Legend John Brockington
John Brockington had been the workhorse for the Ohio State Buckeyes and came into the league with a knack for bulldozing over defenders. He displayed great speed to go along with his brute force strength. Brockington proved to be a great selection for the Packers as he racked up 5,185 yards and 30 touchdowns in his seven-year career. He was the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in his first three seasons. Brockington made the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons and was named Rookie Of The Year in 1971.
Much of Brockington’s career was spent on a Packers team surrounded by less than stellar talent. After a dynastic decade in the 1960s, the Packers fell into a pit of mediocrity which they would not escape from for almost 30 years. Vince Lombardi was gone, as were the champion Packers teams that defined his time with the franchise.
Brockington retired in 1977 to San Diego and went to work as a financial adviser.
In the early 2000’s, Brockington was suffering from kidney failure. Diane Scott, a friend, agreed to donate one of her kidneys and luckily, she was a match. John and Diane married in 2003, and have started a foundation that centers around bringing awareness to living organ donation. (www.johnbrockingtonfoundation.org)
I recently caught up with John and Diane to ask them a few questions about life, football and their foundation.
What made you start up the John Brockington Foundation?
John: It was in the months after the transplant during one of my frequent check-ups that my nephrologist, Dr. Fadda, mentioned that I should be doing something with my past as an NFL player–that very few transplant patients looked back to help those going through what they just had. I wanted to be the person that did that, that helped others on this journey. Three hours later, my friend and colleague Rod said something similar about working in support groups to help kidney patients. Giving back was the core of it, especially since my experience was blessed by friends, close and distant, who asked to be tested. Plus, Woody Hayes always told us to pay it forward.
What advice would you give a donor?
Diane: If you can, do it. 64% of living donors look like me and 97% of us would do it again. That’s an amazing satisfaction rate. Find out if you can help the over 101,000 Americans waiting for their phone to ring that a kidney is available. You can start a chain that saves dozens of people, just by stepping up. Our site provides resources but so does the national kidney registry. Google it—it answers a lot of questions.
What advice would you give a recipient?
John: If you’re listed for a deceased donor you get behind 101,000 others waiting ahead of you. Find a living donor. Asking for a kidney is hard–so don’t. Just share your story–on FB, in the places where you work, play, and pray. And don’t give up if someone says no. Too many just ask a family member, and if that doesn’t work, it’s one and done. You have to reach out as far as you can. Today, 1 out 4 living donors are not family or friends, but from your social network. Contact Diane at [email protected] and she can send you some tips.
How does your foundation help someone suffering from organ failure?
John: In two basic ways. We help them in their search for a donor in the ways mentioned above, and we minimize hardship for those donors flying in for testing, for their travel and lodging, expenses, and for the patient’s dental clearances or groceries. In other words, we work to create the transplant by spreading the word and locating a donor and we work to clear away any financial obstacles to transplant.
Now for some Green Bay Packer Questions:
Did you have any nicknames when you played on the Packers?
What was your favorite achievement on the football field?
John: Being the first running back to gain 1,000 yards in each of my first three years.
Who is your favorite current Packer?
Do you still visit Green Bay?
John: Yes, Diane and I try to see one game a year. Usually on alumni weekend. This year Willie Buchanon and I will be recognized at halftime during the home opener against Seattle.