Charity Bowl set to induct Hall of Fame members
Charity Bowl set to induct Hall of Fame members

The Charity Bowl needed a bad guy, so a man called Porkchop played along.

In 1968, former local high school and college players began playing an annual football game supporting The Joy Fund, a Virginian-Pilot-sponsored charity.

The cause - Christmas gifts for underprivileged kids - was sweet.

Unofficial Southeastern team captain Jackie "Porkchop" Kennedy? Not so much.

A former heavyweight wrestler who had competed in the 1968 Olympics qualifying tournament, Kennedy decided to strap on a black helmet emblazoned with a white skull and crossbones and deliver his own brand of melodrama. His friend, Beach-Eastern team leader Ken Whitley, played "the good guy."

"We treated it like the WWF," Kennedy said. "One time, I got a dry 2 x 4 and went out to shake his hand before the game. Instead of shaking it, I broke the board over his head."

"He's a little bit crazy," longtime Charity Bowl director Ray Potter said. "He and Whitley added a flare because of their competitiveness."

And yet, you also could find Kennedy selling tickets to the game at an area mall leading up to the bowl or dressing up as Santa to hand out gifts afterward. His induction into the game's Hall of Fame on Saturday at Landstown High School has just as much to do with being the good guy, too.

Joining Kennedy, 67, in the Hall's third class is halfback Lee Fleischer, one of Kennedy's former players at Maury High and a one-time Charity Bowl opponent.

"He'd have us come over after practice and we'd sit in the hot tub and sip a few beers," Fleischer said. "Come game time, though, it was a whole different deal."

Kennedy, a 1964 Cradock High graduate, was an All-Tidewater football player. Nicknamed Porkchop by his eighth-grade wrestling coach, he finished third in the state as a senior using his a personal move he called the "Porkchop Roll."

Kennedy played both sports at Virginia Tech before breaking his ankle and transferring to Elizabeth City State. He was the first white student to start in a major sport in ECSU's history, but he played football with a slew of former Southeastern athletes, including future area coach Darnell Moore.

"He might be the toughest football player I've known," Moore said.

After one of his first football practices at ECSU, Kennedy said he felt like he belonged.

"This big-ole tackle kept coming down on me, and I said, 'You have to stop this, man,' " he recalls. "Well, he didn't stop, so I started punching on him. It turned into a big brawl - offense vs. defense, not the white guy vs. everybody else. I stepped back and said to myself, 'Well, I'm home now, buddy.' "

Later, while playing for the semi-pro Norfolk Neptunes, Kennedy began his coaching career at Maury under football coach Jerry Sazio.

Trading barbs with former players was one of Kennedy's favorite parts about the Charity Bowl, a game he figures he's played in 15 times or so.

"I chased Lee down a few times," he said. "Other times, some Maury guys held me on the goal line. They'd say, 'This is what you taught us to do on the goal line.' "

Kennedy moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1980 to become the athletic director for the Navy. Later, he became the first civilian athletic director for the Marines at Okinawa, Japan.

He retired in 2011 after 15 years as the Wilson High athletic director. This is his third Hall of Fame. He's also a member of the ESCU Hall of Fame and the Virginia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

"We had a lot of good times playing," he said. "A lot of antics, a lot of little scenes.... We gave fans a reason to cheer for one side or the other."

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