Gary Brackett was back in New Brunswick to donate stem cells to his brother, who was suffering from leukemia and getting treatment at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital. We met in the massive weight room at the Hale Center, still a second home to him. In his baggy sweatshirt, he looked like any other dude, not someone who would become one of the NFLs top linebackers. At that point, he was going into his second season as a mostly special teams player with the Indianapolis Colts. He would soom become starting inside linebacker and captain of a defense on a team that won the Super Bowl two years after my story was published. His next recent contract would be for around $26 million. Not bad for a former walk on at Rutgers and an undrafted NFL free agent.
Gary came across as humble, smart, and hungry to succeed. It’s been fun to watch and root for him all these years. His ascent to stardom and the big contract was remarkable.
What always stuck in my craw about the story is the title: “Young Colt.” Our original title, “Hit Man,” fit the photo and the story perfectly. But we were ordered to run the story by the athletic department PR types, and they said “Hit Man” made Gary sound like a criminal. Personally, I thought it was PR paranoia. Give readers credit for knowing the difference. But scrutiny by PR types goes with the territory when you work for a big public research university.
Maybe I should go into Photoshop and change the title back to “Hit Man,” in tribute to the First Amendment and journalistic integrity.