Yesterday was The Jason Campbell Leukemia Golf Classic, a benefit for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The more astute visual learners out there will have already noted that the person at the podium in front of the enormous JASON CAMPBELL banner is not, in fact, Jason Campbell, and I’m sure many of you have further ID’ed the speaker there as tight end Chris Cooley.
The reason Cooley is running the show at Campbell’s event is, of course, because the quarterback was traded to Oakland on Saturday — and so Oakland is where he was when time for the golf event rolled around on Monday.
Some reports suggested that Cooley had taken over for Campbell, but Cooley was quick to clarify that. “I’m here in place of Jason,” he said. “I don’t think I’m really taking over, because a TON of work goes into this, and I know Jason put a lot of his time and effort into it. I just showed up. I’m just here ‘on behalf’ of Jason.”
He continued, “This is normally a big event, but this year it’s scaled back a bit because, obviously, Jason’s gone and the rain and all that — but it isn’t like you can just ‘fill in’. For leukemia and lymphoma, this has been a huge event. Mark Brunell one year raised 750,000 dollars. So I don’t just pop in there and say, I’m gonna do this exactly the way it should be done.”
What Cooley did instead was encourage his teammates to show up, contribute to and help run a live auction, and — of course — participate in the actual golfing portion of the day. (“My second shots were on tour,” he said, asked to describe his on-course performance.)
This fill-in performance revealed a slightly unusual aspect to being an athlete — one that almost amounted to an unexpected responsibility. “I guess in a way it is,” Cooley said. “Guys get traded, you might not talk, but you’ll still end up doing anything for ’em. They’re still good people, you still wanna help ’em out. It’s like, you always lose people like that. Monthly, it seems like, that someone’s in and out.”
There’s no reason the event — or LLS, or anyone that would’ve been helped by the charity — should lose out because one player was sent out of town, even that player is the guy whose name is on the banners at the event. Which is how things like this eventually happen:
“Jason called me about two weeks ago,” Cooley told the assembled crowd, “and said, ‘Look, buddy, I have this tournament, and, uh, it’s not going so well for me around the Park.’ And I said ‘Of course, I understand,’ and that I knew what he was going through. So he said, ‘Will you please step in?’ and I said, ‘Of course, I’d be honored to stand in there for you and do whatever you need.'”
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander hasn’t been traded, but his ACES Foundation does a tremendous amount of work here and back in his hometown of (coincidentally enough) Oakland, so he’s given some thought to what might happen in a similar situation.
“Jason still has this event, and if he could’ve been here, he would’ve been here,” Alexander said. “That’s why you make relationships. That’s why it’s hard to see Jason go. If he’d’ve called me, I would’ve stepped in. There’s several guys on the team that would’ve stepped in for Jason just because of the type of guy he is and what he’s meant to us over the last four or five years.”
(And, yes, Alexander has already talked to Campbell about the QB’s pending relocation to Alexander’s hometown: “I called and reached out to him,” he said, “told him if he wanted a home-cooked meal he could call my moms up, told him I had a real estate agent for him — bein’ out there, my real good friend is one — told him to just enjoy the area. It’s a great area. You’ve got the wine country down there, you got the great coast driving up the 101. There’s a lot of things to do up there, but advisin’ him to be safe in Oakland ’cause it can be a rough city.”)
Perhaps the most surprising Redskin in attendance was new quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb didn’t golf, but showed up toward the end of the day to help with the auction, sign a few autographs, and the like. It would be easy to position this as an awkward thing — the current starter at the event bearing the name of the guy he supplanted — but McNabb didn’t see it like that at all.
“I think it’s important that you provide support for an athlete — and not just an athlete, but an individual,” he said, “who spends time giving back and showing his appreciation and being able to reach out a helping hand to the Leukemia Society like Jason’s been doing the last couple of years.”
And that’s one thing McNabb has in common with Campbell: he was traded somewhat suddenly, and he understands what’s required of a quarterback in that situation..
“The tough part about it is the timing,” he said. “I think if this was something that was happening maybe next week or the week after, Jason would’ve been here. We all know the draft was just a couple of hours ago, it feels like. And then for a situation where he has to go to his new team just to meet-n-greet some of the guys, he may stay there for a week or two, work out with ’em, because Jason’s that type of guy. But it says a lot about guys who showed up. For Cooley to step in and keep this thing running, and everybody fell right in and participated … it was a good thing. “
The timing worked out slightly better for McNabb’s own charity work (not to mention that Philadelphia is much closer to D.C. than Oakland is).
“I have an event coming up in June that will obviously be one of the last that I’ll have in Philadelphia,” McNabb said. “The things I do deal with diabetes; my foundation that’s been doing it over the last ten years, and also we partner up with Virtua Hospital. They’ve done great things and provided my name on the NICU, the neonatal intensive care unit, with the new hospital that they’re building in South Jersey. We have a lot of support, a lot of good things happening. We’ve had golf tournaments, black tie affairs, galas, we’ve had dinners, but I also have a football camp each year, and it has over 250, 300 kids that get an opportunity to get kinda tutored by some of the NFL players. And this year I’ll be having some of my new teammates participate and help along with some of my old ones. It’s gonna be an exciting time and you kinda want to go with a bang when you’re moving on.”
Jason Campbell didn’t have the chance to do that, but his teammates did the best they could to make sure the event bearing his name ran smoothly.
Tags: CharitableFoundation, Chris Cooley, donovan mcnabb, leukemia-and-lymphoma-soceity, Lorenzo Alexander
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