Haverford High QB Jack Donaghy's '30 Rock' connection

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Haverford quarterback Jack Donaghy. (Lou Rabtio/Staff)

Jack Donaghy traveled with his family and grandmother to New York for his birthday three years ago. There, they hooked up with his uncle Michael, ate dinner in Manhattan, walked around a bit, and went back to their hotel for dessert and the opening of some gifts.

The last present was unwrapped. Michael Donaghy, saving a blast for last, then opened his laptop.

Jack Donaghy was about to get a birthday wish from Jack Donaghy.

"Hi. It's Alec Baldwin, and I want to wish a happy birthday, a happy 13th birthday, to Jack Donaghy," Baldwin said at the outset of a 40-second video.

Baldwin, the actor, played the role of network executive Jack Donaghy on the NBC hit series 30 Rock.

Jack Donaghy, the real one, plays quarterback for Haverford High.

The shared name is equal parts intentional and coincidental. And, like the video, it grew out of Michael Donaghy's almost-30-year friendship with fellow Upper Darby graduate Tina Fey, star and creator of 30 Rock.

"She was writing the pilot," Michael Donaghy recalled, "and she likes to use the names of local friends and people she's gone to high school with, and she had picked Donaghy."

Fey picked it because of his family, Michael Donaghy said, and wanting a strong Irish name for Baldwin's character, she settled on Jack Donaghy. "And I said, 'You know, I have a nephew named Jack.' And she said, 'Oh, I forgot about that,' " Michael Donaghy said. Efforts to reach Fey were unsuccessful.

Jack Donaghy, a junior who is in his second full season as starting quarterback for Haverford, was only 8 when 30 Rock debuted in 2006. He said that he was aware that the character had his name, but that he didn't watch the show much because he used to go to bed early.

Maybe because of that, the impact of the shared name didn't really hit him, he said, until he saw the birthday video.

Michael Donaghy, who at 50 is six years older than Fey, has been friends with her since they met in Upper Darby's Summer Stage theater program. In the spring of 2011, he approached her about a gift for his nephew that involved Baldwin.

He thought about having Jack meet the actor. Fey brought up the video birthday wish, Michael Donaghy said, and the whole thing came together quickly.

"It's an honor to have somebody that big wish me, a 13-year-old at the time, a happy birthday," Jack Donaghy said. "Not many people - unless your dad is an actor or something big like that - would get that opportunity or have that experience."

Jack Donaghy seemed even more tickled by what came after the birthday wish.

Baldwin quickly shifted into dramatic-acting gear and called out the youngster, saying he heard that Jack was about to sue him for not licensing his name for the character. At his menacing best, Baldwin urged Jack not to pursue a lawsuit.

"Don't even think about it, Jack. I work for Lorne Michaels. We have six floors of the offices of NBC with nothing but lawyers who are going to crush you - crush you," he warned, scrunching his right hand into a fist for emphasis, "if you try to sue us."

Baldwin closed the video by repeating the birthday wish.

The 30 Rock series ran on NBC from 2006 to '13, and Jack Donaghy said some teachers and other adults over the years have mentioned the coincidence of the character's sharing his name.

"Eighty percent of them didn't believe me at first," he said, "but then once I told them the story, it made it seem more realistic.

"The people who really don't believe me, then I've got to pull that one [video] to prove it."

With the show's run having ended, Jack Donaghy doesn't hear too much about it these days. In fact, he recently learned that so few of his football teammates knew of the 30 Rock connection, even though the public address announcer at the Thanksgiving Day game last November against Upper Darby told the crowd at Haverford about it.

"Michael was sitting next to me, texting Tina, 'You'll never believe what they're talking about at the football game,' " said Eileen Donaghy, Jack's mother. "He was getting a kick out of it."

It was during that same Thanksgiving rivalry two years ago that Jack Donaghy made his first start as a freshman, after the Fords' regular quarterback got hurt during a playoff game. He has started ever since.

Donaghy, 16, also has started at point guard for Haverford's basketball team for two years. At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds - undersize for his two positions - he says he hasn't been recruited in either sport.

He has completed 99 of 143 passes (69.2 percent) for 1,375 yards, with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions, for the Fords (7-3) this season.

On Friday night, Haverford will open the playoffs as the final seed in the 16-team District 1 Class AAAA tournament, playing at top seed Coatesville. A victory there would be huge for the Fords and for Donaghy.

It might even help him make a name for himself, except for one thing.

Alec Baldwin beat him to it.

And there's nothing Jack Donaghy, the real one, can do about that.

Not even sue.

 


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