Jack, the Indiana high schoolfootballplayer who was brought to fame by John Mellencamp’s 1982 hit song “Jack & Diane,” stillclaims he’s gonna be afootballstar, despite being 43 years old and out of the game for two decades.
“Mellencamp said it best – ‘oh yeah, life goes on; long after the thrill of livin is gone,’” said Jack. “I’ve definitely done a lot of living since ’82.”
Jack was a 16-year old junior quarterback on his high school team in 1982 when Mellencamp penned the song about him and his girlfriend, Diane. He was set to take over as the starting quarterback in his senior season, 1983, and achievefootball greatness.
“Jack had a cannon for an arm,” said Jim Dalrymple, Jack’s high school coach. “His potential was limitless. We expected to win districts with him at the reigns in 1983 and take a run at states. But he just threw it all away.”
Less than six weeks after “Jack & Diane” hit No. 1 on the charts, Jack found out Diane was pregnant.
“Diane was the debutante of the backseat of my car,” said Jack. “Sometimes we’d run off behind a shady tree. I’d dribble off her Bobby Brooks and she’d let me do what I please. Life went on, but spending too much time in the backseat of my car and behind shady trees got her pregnant.”
Jack was forced to get a job the summer before his senior year in order to support his pregnant girlfriend, leaving little time for him to prepare for thefootballseason.
“I had certain responsibilities after Diane got pregnant and I needed to uphold them. Footballbecame second then,” he said.
The diminished importance offootballin Jack’s life was obvious on the field – his team went only 7-4 in 1983. And after Jack, Jr. was born in mid-October, the team spiraled to an 0-3 finish, failing to the win the district title or qualify for states.
“I wish I could have held on to 16 longer,” said Jack. “Changes came around real soon and made us women and men.”
Jack received minimal interest from collegefootballprograms following his disappointing senior season. He enrolled for one semester at Division III Meshaw State in Indiana in 1984 and rode the bench on thefootballteam before quitting school before the end of the spring semester.
“Jack had some real talent, better than most you see in D-3,” said Charles Duhauser, Jack’s college coach. “But you could tell his mind was elsewhere.”
“When I realized and I wasn’t going to play right away in college, I made the decision to quit school and head back home to take care of Diane andJackie, Jr.,” said Jack. “It’s not a decision I regret.”
Jack and Diane got married and Jack began working double shifts at a local auto parts factory to support his family. The 24 years of back-breaking manual labor has left Jack looking much older than his 43 years.
“It hasn’t been easy. Diane wasn’t able to work for a long time after have Jack, Jr. due to some complications with the delivery,” said Jack. “So the responsibility for making a living fell to me. I guess we were just two American kids doing the best we could.”
Today, withJackie, Jr. off to college and more time to devote to his own endeavors, Jackwantsto re-visit hisfootballcareer.
“I know I canstillplay,” said Jack. “I may not look all that good for my age, and I know teams are going to be apprehensive to take a shot on a 43-year old who hasn’t played in 25 years, but I’ve always had the talent and Istilldo. My goal is to make the NFL, but I’vestillgot college eligibility left, too, so I can go that route first.”
Jack has cut back his schedule at the factory in order to allow time for training. And he says he has Diane’s full support.
“I just want a shot,” he said. “Mellencamp knew what he saw in me when I was 16. I’m stillgonna be afootballstar.”