The following is an excerpt from one of several stories that earned Jordan the Rookie of the Year award from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2015.
It was just over four years ago that the high school athletic director encountered a “train wreck” in the form of an angry eighth-grader who was smashing his skateboard against what was then a brand new fence at Sprague Field.
When confronted, the eighth-grader didn’t have much to say about his actions. Athletic Director John Brown asked the middle-schooler why he was smashing the fence. He asked what town the eighth-grader was from, and the kid said he was there with the visiting baseball team, craning his neck to try and see exactly which town the Raiders were playing that afternoon.
“He had no idea who we were playing,” he said. “He didn’t know what town he was from.”
Brown took the skateboard and went to the middle school office. The principal there recognized it immediately, only because he’d just returned it to its owner — A.J. Madden — earlier that same afternoon. Madden was a “frequent flyer” at the principal’s office back then, Brown said.
Madden was instructed to go to the high school athletic office the following day if he wanted it back. He appeared the next afternoon with the same sullen attitude, Brown recalled, simply hoping to retrieve his skateboard.
“I said, ‘We’re gonna be here for a while,’” Brown remembered saying to Madden as the boy sat on a wooden bench in his office at the old high school. That attitude, according to Brown, wasn’t going to earn Madden his skateboard back. If he came back again that evening for the eighth-grade orientation for high school athletics, and listened to Brown’s spiel about sports, then he’d get the board back.
“He came over the day we had orientation for eighth-grade athletics,” Brown said. “It was the perfect time.” That night, at 6 p.m., Madden actually showed up.
“I don’t have time for this kid,” Brown recalled telling one of the high school coaches. “I didn’t think he’d show up.”
The high school athletic trainer, Patty Hickey, hates that story because the sullen, angry kid is not who Madden is anymore. “He’s a quality, quality person,” she said. “And there was a day when we weren’t sure that he was.”
Brown kept a promise he made to Madden that afternoon in the spring of 2010. If he showed up for orientation, Brown would personally show him around the athletic facilities and help him get into sports.
Madden played sports all four years of high school. He was a wrestler, a volleyball player and a football player. He gave up playing football as a senior, but stayed on as a team manager. The encounter at Sprague Field got him back on the rails.