The football world lost a pair of notable figures on Friday, with the deaths of former Green Bay Packers standout John Brockington and University of Michigan great Eugene Derricotte, who is remembered also as a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
ESPN.com noted that Brockington passed away in San Diego at the age of 74, while the San Antonio Express-News reported that Derricotte died at age 96.
A member of the Green Bay squad between the years of 1971 and 1977, Brockington tallied an impressive 5,024-yard rushing total, a record that has only been surpassed by three other players in the history of the franchise, as ESPN noted.
Impressively, Brockington was also the first NFL running back to notch more than 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first three seasons in the league.
Inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame back in 1984, Brockington was also the recipient of three consecutive Pro Bowl bids, spanning 1971-1973.
Upon the football notable's death, Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy issued a statement which read, “The Packers family was saddened to hear about the passing of John. One of the great runners of his era, John was an exciting player to watch with his powerful running style” and added, “I enjoyed getting to know John during his return visits to Green Bay and greatly respected his work in support of organ donation through the John Brockington Foundation.”
Perhaps because his path into the ranks of professional football was prematurely ended by a Cleveland Browns training camp injury in 1949, Derricotte, who also died this week, made more of a name for himself on the college gridiron and in his military and professional careers, as the Express-News notes.
A native of Ohio, Derricotte distinguished himself as the valedictorian of his graduating class at Defiance High School and went on to the University of Michigan, where he played in the offensive backfield for the famed football program.
While there, he pursued a chemistry major, before being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944.
Though he was first assigned to work as an artillery cannon technician, Derricotte ultimately moved into the famed aviation training program in Tuskegee, Alabama, which he completed in the spring of 1946, and subsequently returned to Ann Arbor for additional schooling, racking up a number of football team records along the way, to which the University of Michigan's Hall of Honor attests to this day.
As noteworthy as Derricotte's football exploits were, perhaps his most impressive accomplishments were those attained after he earned degrees in pharmacy and dentistry from Michigan and during his 24-year career with the U.S. Air Force.
Derricotte's military career took him to Vietnam, stints in various locations throughout the United States, as well as a period of service at the U.S. Air Force Academy but was perhaps most significant due to his membership in the elite group of African American fighter and bomber pilots who served the nation in World War II known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
After he retired from the military, Derricotte moved to Texas, where he worked at the University of Texas and lived with his wife and son in the San Antonio area.
The dedication to service embodied by Derricotte in his young adult years was formally acknowledged by the U.S. government in 2007, when he and the last few remaining Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal – a fitting honor for someone who was a true trailblazer far beyond the football field.