by Scott Kindberg
August 19, 2018
Cam In The Clutch
The Carl Cappa Theater at the Robert H. Jackson Center is filled to near capacity.
Some people, in fact, are standing just inside the door to the 200-seat auditorium, craning their necks to watch a documentary film — “A Model for Courage: The Life of Charles Goodell” — that is being shown on the big screen in the front of the room
One of them is Cameron Hurst.
A communications intern at the Robert H. Jackson Center this summer, Hurst is the producer of both the documentary as well as an exhibit — housed in an adjacent room — that honors the memory of the late Jamestown native and former New York senator.
As the 24-minute video comes to an end, Joseph Zanetta, a member of the Robert H. Jackson Center board of directors, walks to the podium and thanks Hurst for his work putting it all together.
At about the same time, the St. Bonaventure University journalism major and Jamestown resident hears another voice, one close by that doesn’t require a microphone to be heard.
“Great job, Cameron, good job,” says a man wearing a dark blazer, sitting in the second row and giving an approving thumbs-up sign.
Looking to his left, Hurst, 20, finds the source of the comment, and then says to himself, “Oh, my God.”
That man is Roger Goodell.
And, on this Sunday afternoon in August, just one of Charlie’s very proud sons.
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Charles Goodell was appointed to the U.S. Senate in September 1968 to fill the unexpired term of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated three months earlier. Goodell, who had also represented the 38th and 43rd New York congressional districts, made headlines as the first U.S. Senator to propose legislation calling for the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. That position ostracized him from many of his fellow Republican Party members and President Richard Nixon, and spelled the end of his political career.
Fifty years later, the folks at the Robert H. Jackson Center wanted to honor the life of the man who, despite his controversial stance decades ago, still has the admiration of many.
Dozens of family members — immediate and extended, both Goodells and Rappoles — were in attendance for the tribute last Sunday, including sons Tim, Roger, Michael and Jeffrey. Oldest son, Bill, could not attend. Several others in the nearly 90-minute program spoke of their admiration for the 1944 Jamestown High School graduate as well.
And the glue to it all was Hurst, the young man who graduated from JHS just two years ago.
Said Greg Peterson, Robert H. Jackson Center director and co-founder: “Joe Zanetta really was the inspiration behind it and Cameron was the perspiration behind it.”
Hurst, who will begin his junior year at St. Bonaventure later this month, has interned at the Jackson Center for the last two summers after receiving a stipend underwritten by Bona alum and Lakewood native Tom Marra.
“I wouldn’t have turned this down,” Hurst said. ” … It wasn’t like it was a hard sell, but I had no clue what it was going to become. … I have to thank Greg and Joe. They just gave me the bare minimum and kind of let me run with it.”
Using an exhaustive story on Charles Goodell — authored in February by sportswriter Tim Graham, then of The Buffalo News and now with The Athletic — as a blueprint, Hurst went to work.
“That served as my basis and I kind of went from there,” Hurst said. “I started digging around, trying to connect all the dots. We had this congressman from Jamestown who lived on Fairmount Avenue, who was associated with Gerald Ford in the House of Representatives.”
Before he was through, Hurst had researched The Associated Press video library, examined the archives at St. Bonaventure University and the University at Buffalo, connected with Goodell’s family for more artifacts and even looked for material that is housed in the Ford Presidential Library. The timeline of Goodell’s life was made, ultimately filling an entire room at the Robert H. Jackson Center. The documentary took on a life of its own as well.
“When Cameron agreed to do that,” Peterson said, “we met several times early on and mapped out a vision, which he took above and beyond.”
Hurst said that “without a doubt,” the most important collection of Goodell material that he came across was from clip files from The Post-Journal.
” … That gave me the opportunity to look at pretty much his entire life, from his return to the area (to practice law) to his death in 1987,” he said. “I was starting to get an acknowledgment of, ‘Who is this man?'”
Well, believe or not, the Hurst and the Goodell families have a connection, dating back to when Charles Goodell was playing semi-pro baseball in Jamestown for the Moose Club. One of his opponents was Tom Hurst, Hurst’s great uncle, who played for Marlin Rockwell.
“When (Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame president) Randy Anderson … sent over the rosters, it was a serendipitous moment,” Hurst said. “It was a little sign. I felt I was getting myself into a little something more in-depth. To me, at that moment, I knew (the project) was becoming a personal thing.”
Added Anderson: “All of the credit goes to Cam for this. We played a very small role. … He’s another ‘Forrest Gump’ guy. He’s in amazing places, dealing with amazing people. He’s really lived a charmed life so far. I’d like to give him $20 and have him buy me some lottery tickets, and I think it will work. Everything the guy touches turns to gold.”
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Peterson said he didn’t preview the video Hurst produced in advance of last Sunday.
“Other people saw it and said it was well done,” Peterson said. “When I saw it that day, I thought, ‘Holy cow!’ His voice, the segues, I was so impressed.”
So, too, were the Goodells.
Tim Goodell, a Robert H. Jackson Center director, praised Hurst upon the documentary’s conclusion.
“I think he should skip his last two years at St. Bonaventure, get a degree and go right to work,” he joked. “That was outstanding.”
Once the program was complete, the Goodells remained in the theater to greet people. It was then that Hurst, in possession of a copy of a thesis written about Charles Goodell, approached Roger Goodell about affixing his autograph to it.
“I said, ‘Roger, I’d love for you to sign it, and this will be the last time I bother you,”’ Hurst recalled.
Roger Goodell did so enthusiastically and then told Hurst not to leave, “because I’ve got something for you.”
They walked into the lobby where the NFL commissioner presented Hurst with a football that read, “To Cameron: Thank you from the Goodell family.”
It was signed: “Roger Goodell.”
“I get goose bumps just thinking about it,” Hurst said. “He palmed the ball right into my hand and said, ‘This is for all you did for us this summer. Thank you so much. We really can’t thank you enough. You’re my first-round draft pick.'”
“Then he looked at me and said, ‘Don’t fumble it.'”
There was no chance of that happening.
After all, Hurst hadn’t “dropped the ball” all summer, so as he posed for a photograph with arguably the most powerful man in sports, he wasn’t about to start.