- Last Updated: 4:55 AM, May 27, 2012
- Posted: 12:11 AM, May 27, 2012
Chase Blackburn was an expectant father, but the Tumi suitcase that sat on his bedroom floor at his home in Marysville, Ohio, wasn’t for a mad dash to the hospital. It was there packed and ready for when Blackburn got a call from an NFL team wanting his services.
It sat there for months as July turned to August, August to September and September to October. It was the last remnant of what had been a fully loaded motorcycle trailer Blackburn had filled with his family’s belongings, ready for transport when the NFL lockout ended last summer.
Blackburn wasn’t resigned after playing six years with the Giants. But he was sure he would get a call from another team. But it had not come, and little by little Blackburn unpacked the trailer he had borrowed from his father. But he kept a suitcase packed with jeans, a couple of pairs of shirts, and dress shoes. He left enough space for a suit and his bathroom toiletries, which would be last-minute additions.
“I never lost faith,” Blackburn said recently. “I was just waiting for an opportunity to arise. I just didn’t know when.”
Blackburn’s phone didn’t ring until the morning of Nov. 29 — a Tuesday — when the Giants called. Injuries to their linebackers had created an opening. Blackburn grabbed his suitcase and by that night was in East Rutherford ready to play football again.
He would start the final four games and become a Super Bowl hero when he intercepted a pass from Tom Brady in the Giants’ 21-17 victory over the Patriots in Indianapolis. He is signed for the 2012 season and is the early front-runner for a starting position.
“To be home and forgotten about to coming back and being a part of what we were able to accomplish, it’s pretty awesome,” Blackburn said.
Since the Super Bowl, he has been sharing his turnaround story with those who need to hear from someone who stayed optimistic in the face of adversity. On June 2, Blackburn will take cancer fighters and survivors and their friends, family and supporters on a fishing cruise off the coast of New Jersey. Partnering with the charity “Kick Cancer Overboard,” Blackburn has planned a relaxing afternoon for those affected by cancer.
“My mother-in-law beat breast cancer four years ago, and my wife’s best friend’s little brother passed away from cancer when he was in high school,” Blackburn said. “Me and my wife [Megan] know a little bit about going through radiation and chemo and how much of a toll it takes and the medical bills that pile up. This gives those who are going through it and have gone through it a free trip so they can think about having fun and relaxing.”
It’s the latest worthy cause Blackburn has been involved with since the Super Bowl. Last February, he spoke to a group of inner city kids and offered his support for a project to revitalize McGinley Square, a historic neighborhood in Jersey City. It is one of 17 neighborhoods around the country that have been awarded the Choice Neighborhood grant from Obama administration.
The project will create housing for all levels of income, retail shops and parks where kids can play. One of the streets to be developed will be named Blackburn Boulevard.
“You won’t be able to drive on it, but it will be like Times Square,” Blackburn said. “It’s going to be more of a festival street. It’s where people will hang out, be safe and have some fun.”
With the Giants slated to visit the White House on June 8, Blackburn now has a common cause with nation’s leader.
“I’ll be interested to know when we go to the White House whether [President Barack] O’Bama will know whether I’m part of that project,” Blackburn said with a grin.
Being a Super Bowl hero and having a date with the President seemed far-fetched last fall when Blackburn was waiting for his phone to ring. But the packed suitcase was a reminder he wasn’t giving up on his career and his dreams.
“That’s how quickly things can change for the better,” he said.
It’s a message that can resonate on the streets of Jersey City or a boat ride off the Jersey Shore.