Monday April 03, 2023
John Brockington (1948-2023)
This is a little weird, but John Brockington was the first Black guy I remember parting his hair. I was born in 1963, became cognizant (more or less) in the late ’60s, a time of Oscar Gamble-ish natural afros, and Brockington had that, but tighter, shorter. And on his 1974 football card, a posed shot, helmetless, his hair was parted. “Huh,” I thought. “Didn’t know that was an option.”
When I first became a football fan, around 1972 or so, the Green Bay Packers were past their Vince Lombardi-era, “frozen tundra of Lambeau Field” heyday, but they had Brockington. He was the best player on mediocre Packer squads from 1971 to 1975. His rookie year, 1971, he rushed for 1,000+ yards and was Rookie of the Year three ways: AP, UPI, Sporting News. He made the Pro Bowl the next two years, rushing for 1,000+ each time. According to his New York Times obit, it was the first time in NFL history that a running back broke the 1,000-yard barrier in each of his first three seasons.
1974 is when he began to falter. His rushing attemps were about the same (266) but his average per went down by a yard: from 4.3 to 3.3. The next year, his attempts were cut in half and his average dropped to 3.0. Was it the Packer offensive line? Was he losing a step? Can’t imagine that grind. After one game in 1977, he was traded to Kansas City. That was his last season.
The Packers went to the postseason once in his run—1972, and lost 16-3 to the Washington Redskins in the divisional round. The 1970s was the era of Minnesota Vikings dominance—divisionally speaking, anyway. The Pack didn’t make it back until 1982, and then not again until ’93.
I remember he was my friend Dave Budge’s favorite player. I wonder if he wore #42 for Jackie?