A play for awareness
Buckeye and Packer great John Brockington will create new Rose Bowl memories with a Tournament of Roses Parade appearance to promote organ donation.
John Brockington already has loads of Rose Bowl memories.
As one of the Ohio State “super sophomores” who began their football careers in 1968, Brockington started at running back in the “Granddaddy of them All” three times — including the 27-16 win against O.J. Simpson and the USC Trojans on Jan. 1, 1969, that cemented a national championship. His play earned him spots in the Varsity “O” Hall of Fame and on the Ohio State All-Century Team announced in 2000.
“The Rose Bowl will always hold a very special place in my life,” said Brockington, who helped lead the Buckeyes to a 27-2 record during his college career. “The memories are still fresh, like it just happened.”
This year, Brockington plans to make new Rose Bowl memories: He will ride in the Tournament of Roses Parade as an ambassador on the Donate Life America float to promote organ, eye and tissue donation.
“First of all, it’s a gift that I’m even around to be asked and I’m grateful every day that I have opportunities like this,” said Brockington, who underwent a kidney transplant 13 years ago. “At the same time, I’m very happy to be a part of raising awareness and support for donation. I’ll do everything I can to get as many people as I can to sign up to be potential donors.”
Sheer strength not enough
Brockington first started feeling poorly in mid-2000. But as many world-class athletes did, especially those of his era, Brockington figured he could just power through it.
By the time friends convinced him to see a doctor, it was almost too late.
“They told me that they had never seen a creatinine level this side of the grave,” he said. “Seriously, the doctor couldn’t believe I had made it in alive.”
His doctors put him on dialysis and told him he would not survive long without a kidney transplant.
The call went out far and wide among the Varsity “O.” Former Buckeye quarterback Ron Maciejowski and many others lined up hundreds of people to be tested for compatibility. Then-Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel made inquiries with the Ohio State Medical Center to see if anything else could be done in or around Columbus to help Brockington.
The outlook was bleak.
An instant fan
Rewind to 1971. A young graduate student at Marquette University, Diane Scott, was in attendance as her favorite team, the Green Bay Packers, were playing the Detroit Lions. Brockington had been the Packers’ first-round draft pick and was in the middle of a rookie-of-the-year
John Brockington was named to the Ohio State Football All-Century Team in 2000.
campaign. Scott said she instantly became his biggest fan.
Fast-forward a bit, then, to 1993. Brockington had long since retired (as the second-leading rusher in Packers’ history, and now he’s third on the list) and moved to San Diego.
Scott moved there as well, coincidentally to the same Little Italy section where Brockington lived. One day, a barista at the corner coffee shop noticed Scott’s Packers keychain and told her one of the “old-time Packers” was a regular there and introduced them.
“We struck up what had to seem like a very unlikely friendship,” Scott said.
Brockington chimed in: “We were football buddies, movie buddies, talk-on-the-phone buddies. She was really fun to be with. She liked sports. We had a really good time.”
Over time, the friendship developed into a romance. But the two — both of whom been married before — were reluctant to remarry. They decided to split up.
Less than a year later, Brockington began feeling terribly rundown. He felt a constant need to urinate, but often was unable to do so. Friends from church finally convinced him to see a doctor. The physician later said that when he heard his patient’s creatinine numbers, he ran through the halls to find him. It was that close.
“I thought I had a tumor, and I was pretty sure I was going to die by that point,” Brockington said. “But I was right with the Lord and decided I was ready to go.”
While he lay in the hospital on life-sustaining dialysis, a mutual friend called Scott to let her know what was happening. She went to the hospital and talked him into pursuing a kidney transplant.
Scott urged Brockington’s medical team to test her, but doctors assumed there was no way the 5-foot-2, 120-pound woman’s kidneys would be large enough for the 6-2, 230-pound former NFL player, even if they were compatible otherwise. They denied her request.
“I kept on them, though, and when no one else was a match, they finally agreed and were very surprised at how large my kidneys were. We scheduled the transplant right away.”
The power of donation
Brockington received his new kidney the day after Thanksgiving 2001. The operation went perfectly.
John and Diane were married two years later. Today, they codirect the John Brockington Foundation to raise awareness and funds for organ donation and assist transplant patients in the San Diego area.
Having been in three Rose Bowls, Brockington was a natural pick to ride on the Donate Life float in the parade while his wife walks proudly alongside as a donor.
“I was blessed to be someone who received a transplant. I know how many people are on the waiting list hoping for their second chance at life right now," Brockington said. “If we can get more people to realize they can be living donors and not wait ’til they die to be able to donate, we can shorten that list and make a real difference.”