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Joe Brockington: Linebacker steps up when his number is called

Jay Fitzpatrick | Friday, November 17, 2006

On Sept. 30, Notre Dame’s starting defense took the field against Purdue with one key addition – outside linebacker Joe Brockington in his first career start for the Irish in four years.

“This year when I started against Purdue was one of my best moments because I finally got on the field,” Brockington said. “It’s been a journey since I’ve been here.”

Brockington’s journey to Notre Dame began in central Pennsylvania, where his mother raised him and his sister on her own.

“She worked two jobs pretty much since I was born – supported my sister and I by herself,” Brockington said of his mother. “We’ve had hard times but she definitely got an A-plus in the whole mothering thing because her two kids are pretty successful.”

While in high school at Palmyra High School in Palmyra, Penn., Brockington was already a standout football player, rushing for 1,046 yards and registering 110 total tackles during his junior season. Even though he was sidelined by a shoulder injury in his senior year, Brockington was still recruited by schools in the Big East, ACC, Big Ten as well as Notre Dame.

“[Picking Notre Dame] was a combination of academics and the coaching staff that was in place at the time,” Brockington said. “It was a more of a decision my family and I made together; my family felt it was the best opportunity for me.”

Another major influence in Brockington’s decision was whether he would get to play Penn State – the favorite team of many of his friends and neighbors.

“I know a bunch of people that said I should go to Penn State or else I wasn’t good enough to play college football,” Brockington said. “It was definitely something I looked at when I was looking at schools so I can show everyone in my area that I can play college football.”

Brockington was redshirted his freshman year, missing his second consecutive season.

“It was tough. I was practicing so I had that type of aspect still there. I was still practicing, still doing some things,” he said. “It was definitely tough, it was hard to deal with, but talking with my family they helped me get through it.”

Brockington continued to work while at Notre Dame, but at his academics if not athletics. Brockington entered school as a business major intent and spent his sophomore year in the Mendoza College of Business before switching in his junior year to become an American Studies major with a minor in computer applications.

“Then I was looking into different majors, and I decided on American Studies because the classes they let you take were just more interesting than any other major I could find in arts and letters,” Brockington said of his decision.

But despite the hard work Brockington exerted on the field and in the classroom, he feels the most important part of his experiences here at Notre Dame were those that happened with his friends outside of football, the kind of regular students he might not have met at another university.

“The interaction that you have with other students is different than at other schools,” he said. “All through college I haven’t [roomed] with a football player. It’s helped me meet some new people. Now I look back on [dorm life] and it helped build some relationships that I will have for the rest of my life.”

But despite the great memories from Notre Dame, Brockington’s journey is at a crossroads. Because of his redshirt freshman year, Brockington could come back for a fifth year under the Dome or leave school to start life in the real world.

If Brockington does decide to forego his fifth year, he plans to take the LSAT in June, work all of next year and then enter law school. But, with the chance to play in Happy Valley next season as the Irish travel to Penn State, Brockington says he may return.

But even if Brockington does return for his fifth year, he knows that law school will be his next step.

Regardless of when he leaves, Brockington says the most important thing he will take with him is not the games played on the field or the lessons learned in the classroom, but the people he met here.

“The people that I actually met here, the friends that I made here just because the people that actually go to school here kind of grew up in a different situation than I did,” Brockington said of his favorite experience at Notre Dame. “It was good because I learned some things from them and they learned some things from me.”