Intern Brian Tinsman checks in with another story from the Bobby Mitchell Hall Of Fame Golf Classic.
The NFL community lost a great leader last week with the passing of former Baltimore Colt John Mackey. A superstar at the tight end position, his playing style inspired young athletes like Rick “Doc” Walker in the 1960s and 70′s. But it was his influential leadership off the field that helped guide the current state of the NFL.
Mackey was a long-time supporter and attendee of Bobby Mitchell’s Annual Hall of Fame Golf Classic, and was remembered by Walker at the event this past weekend.
“Y’know, I think about John Mackey,” he told the media. “He was here four or five years ago, and every year that John was here, the impact that John had on you, I mean just to see him.”
Walker grew up in Santa Ana, Calif.during a time when there were only a limited number of NFL games broadcast around the country. Mackey’s Colts were one of them.
“I grew up having the Colts on,” he said. “They were on early-them and the ‘Skins and the Cowboys, the only three teams you see on the west coast.”
“I grew up playing split end, so I noticed John,” he continued. “I watched him in his runs after the catch, and I was just amazed at how he ran like a fullback. And then I heard him speak, and he was responsible, in part, for free agency.”
Walker was very blunt about Mackey’s legacy and how it shaped Walker personally.
“He didn’t take any crap,” he said. “He was strong in his convictions. He wasn’t doing it to showboat, he wasn’t trying to get attention, he was trying to make a point about what was right or wrong.”
“But he had an impact on my life as to how to handle myself when it comes to issues,” he continued. “He stood up for something when it wasn’t popular. If you believe in something, don’t shy away–let people know what you believe. And that’s John Mackey.”
Walker, who is a co-host of ESPN 980′s “John Thompson Show,” as well as his own show, “Doc Walker’s ProView,” said that he regretted not being able to interview Mackey one-on-one. After many years of aggressive runs and punishing punishing hits, Mackey suffered from dementia in his final years.
“About five years ago I started to sense something was different about him,” Walker remembered. “And his wife Sylvia instructed me of what was going on.”
Walker also asserted how influential Mackey was on Civil Rights in this country, playing at a superstar level during a time when football needed help integrating.
“Especially for minorities, to understand what he had to go through–as Bobby [Mitchell] did–where our country was, they stood up for things and their lives were threatened,” he said. “Whole different thing now.”
He continued: “The biggest thing a guy has to worry about now is if he’s gonna run into beef at a club. The whole world has changed. But it’s changed in a good way because of sacrifices that the Bobby Mitchells and the John Mackeys made.”
Will there ever be another John Mackey? According to Walker, probably not, in terms of conduct on and off the field.
“The man was special, he was really special,” Walker said. “I mean, he did not get his due. He was the greatest ever. And he will definitely be missed.”
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