GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – If you were watching the Packers game Sunday night, you may remember the moment that Za’Darius Smith ran up to a camera and flashed a t-shirt that said ‘I love Eileen.’
So who is Eileen?
ABC affiliate WBAY caught up with Eileen Brooker and her son, Ben Brooker, who works for the Packers.
“I pick up locker room when players are at practice, but a majority of it is laundry,” said Ben.
Coming all the way from sunny California, this is Ben’s first year as the Packers locker room attendant, but he’s been a Packers fan his entire life.
“This is basically my second home,” said Ben.
Ben’s mom and aunt, Leigh Dennis, grew up in Packers country. They went to Southwest High School in Green Bay and their parents are season ticket holders.
“It runs in my blood,” said Eileen. “Ben has taken my love for the Packers and took it to a new level.”
Ben managed to take that love one step further during Sunday night’s football game against the San Francisco 49ers.
“I’m always looking for Za’Darius Smith to make a sack and when I saw him stand up and lift up his shirt and I saw the undershirt, I knew immediately that my son Benjamin was behind that,” said Eileen. “I knew that I was the Eileen on the shirt.”
“I heard Ben screaming, like, ‘He did it, he did it,’ and I’m thinking a touchdown so I come down and he is replaying it and I was gobsmacked, I had no idea,” said Leigh.
“I called her when it happened. She was crying. Our phones started blowing up, wishing my mom prayers and stuff like that which I am really thankful for,” said Ben. “I didn’t say anything. She screamed ‘Oh my God’ and was crying. It was hard to talk, but we were watching it live on the phone together, so definitely a surreal moment.”
“We started screaming. Benjamin calls me right away on the phone and we celebrated together as they did that live on TV and it was just, it was amazing,” said Eileen.
Ben takes complete ownership of the shirt.
“I drew the shirt,” said Ben. “It wasn’t the best penmanship, but I tried.”
But it was a penmanship a mother would recognize.
“I know Ben’s writing. I knew his artwork, and I knew that was him,” said Eileen.
Ben said it would never have happened if it wasn’t for Za’Darius Smith’s endless support after he found out that Ben’s mom had been diagnosed with an incurable, rare form of bone marrow cancer in September. Eileen was diagnosed with multiple myeloma which causes cancer cells to pool in the bone marrow, impacting healthy blood cells.
“I always remembered that he (Smith) told me he wanted to do something that would make her (Eileen) laugh and smile,” said Ben.
“I talked to him and I was like we should do something for it,” said Za’Darius Smith. “That will be my sack celebration with a shout out. He (Ben) came up with the idea of the shirt and it all came through.”
A powerful moment that even came through on Ben’s cell phone.
“Everyone was texting saying hey I hope your mom is doing well,” said Ben. “Definitely emotional getting all the support from my friends.”
Eileen said they didn’t tell very many people about her cancer fight that would soon include a stem cell transplant, but as a true Packers fan, she wouldn’t change a thing.
“There’s no better way to come out than on national TV on Sunday Night Football,” said Eileen.
The ‘I love Eileen’ T-shirt won’t stick around Green Bay too long because Ben plans to give it to his mom. There’s even a special message on it from Za’Darius himself.
“I just want to give him (Za’Darius) the biggest hug and just thank him and the entire Packers organization,” said Eileen. “When there’s not a lot of great news these days and to see that during an NFL football game, I think it was just really wonderful.”
“He is a big star. He is a big player and to think about this family and someone who works in the equipment room and to care about Ben … to do that for us is unbelievable,” said Leigh.
“I am blessed with an amazing village of supporters and having the Packer nation behind me just makes me feel that much stronger and really want to put up a really good fight,” said Eileen. “Everyone has a struggle, and I think when you know someone that’s going through something difficult, don’t run away from them, run to them.”
Advice Za’Darius took to heart when he ran toward the camera Sunday night.
“I just can’t thank him enough, and I think it is such a display of the integrity that he has as a human being to take his time and apply his efforts to something that doesn’t affect him directly but affects someone that he cares about. And to do that on national TV and put his voice on it, I can’t even express my thanks for that. It was something that is immeasurable,” said Eileen.
“Za’Darius, I love you bro from the bottom of my heart and my mom does, too. I can’t thank you enough. This is definitely one of the best moments of my life and will always remember it and I am so thankful,” said Ben.