"When I was a boy, "how many times did you hear that coming out of an adult's mouth as a child? Generally an obvious prelude to a long-winded parent explaining why tennis shoes are too expensive nowadays or why you didn't need a ride as everywhere was in walking distance when they were young, once the eardrum picked up on the cliché phrasing we seemed to shutoff our ears and accept defeat. As tired as we became of hearing about how difficult our parents lives were to ours and how good we have it, there was always one set of stories that seemed to draw more interest than they took - sports stories.
We've all heard them. Boy, have we ever. Growing up as a young boy in the sports-crazy Midwest region of the United States, you cannot help but overhear story after story of sporting heroes of decades past. Passed down from generation to generation, they tell the fabled tales of superhuman ballplayers who could run through brick walls and play the game better than anyone from any rival era. We've all chuckled at the slight inconsistencies in the narrative tale that arise after excessive use. What was once a 430-foot homerun in the seventh inning or a miraculous 30-yard endzone run becomes Ruthian blast to win the game or 50-yard dash with four defenders on your back. Nevertheless, these stories of yesteryear, even with their overblown premises and often-fictitious factoids, are the things we embraced most of those generations because they came from our fathers and grandfathers.
While athletes with 300-wins or 10,000-receiving yards are the athletes we watch and enjoy, it is the our father's and grandfather's we want to be like. Whether it is watching them shave in the mirror or emulating their golf swing at the driving range, we wanted to be just like those men -- our true idols! That is why the sporting arena has long served as a link between father and son, grandfather to grandson. When those male generations are able to relay personal stories of athletic achievement to us, we embrace it more than any other.
At the now recently completed University of Cincinnati football camp held at Colerain High School I had the privilege of running into Bob Pequignot, a man who is known for his stories, who has a particular interest in UC's recruiting efforts...
"I think it is fantastic. The effort that they put into the recruiting camps is amazing. It is so organized and intense on behalf of these schools, but the athletes do a much better job than we did during my day. They are not only better athletes, but they understand the game and the process so much better then we used to. They really work for what they get."
Pequignot played defensive guard in 1951 under legendary UC football coach, and pro and college football hall-of-fame member Sid Gillman.
"The process was much simpler when I went to UC. I was really amazed that the number of boys that started school and camp into play football. Almost 80 freshmen started camp the week after I graduated from high school and we took a few classes that summer. It was really something."
Though his time on the gridiron sporting Bearcat regalia did not match the athletic successes of teammates Gene Rossi and Bob Stratton during that 1951 campaign, as they became the first of a line of 29 Bearcats to earn the moniker of All-American, Pequignot's fond memories of football and the University of Cincinnati have long served as a binding force between the generational gaps in his family.
"There have been some old football stories that have been told, I can guarantee you that," said a chuckling Pequignot. "I think we've lived as a family off some of those stories, off some of these things that have happened while I was at UC. Even to this day I enjoy traveling with my grandson's and making the trips to Cincinnati football games."
The stories, the trips down to Cincinnati for football outings, and the general passion for UC and football Pequignot has displayed to his family has rubbed of his grandsons. In particular, his grandson Jesse Kontras who was taken by his grandfather‘s glory-day anecdotes. However, it is the soon-to-be high school senior that makes the red and black blood that runs through Pequignot's veins pump extra fast these days.
"He's shown the ability that he has played some place. Just seeing him on the field, being successful, it makes me so proud."
It was no mere coincidence that Pequignot was at Colerain this week. Kontras is in fact a potential target for UC's 2006 recruiting class, and his grandfather couldn't be more excited. Kontras participated in camp along with some of the top high school talent in this part of the country.
"It is just really quite exciting for him to have the opportunity to be here and I think he can make the grade," said Jesse's glowing with pride grandfather. "It would mean an awful lot to me for him to have the chance to go there and play there."
Kontras, a safety at Jonathan Alder High School, is trying to prove himself worthy of a look by the UC coaching staff. The 5-11.5 188-pound defensive back has become just as smitten with the university as his grandfather. As Pequignot said, "he's taken the bait!"
"My grandpa used to always talk about playing for UC and how great it was," said Kontras. "He used to take me and my brother to games. We would make trips as an entire family to Cincinnati to watch them play."
The University of Cincinnati has meant so much to the Pequignot/Kontras family that seeing Jesse follow in his grandfather's footsteps would really mean a lot to the entire clan.
"I think seeing him go to Cincinnati would mean everything to all of us, especially to Jesse," said Jesse's father. "Having the chance to carryon in his grandfather's footsteps is a dream he has deep inside of him. The entire family is behind him and hoping for this."
Kontras is certainly not oblivious to how much becoming a Bearcat would mean to his family.
"It would mean a lot to my grandpa, he is diehard Bearcat football fan. I mean, it would be special for my parents too, but it would be just really something special for him."
Kontras carries a lot of weight on his shoulders, as he is not just trying to become an extension of his family's legacy at UC. The teenager is also attempting to become a part of the very exclusive Bearcat football family tree, a tree that has seen much change in recent years.
"They have a terrific start to really making Cincinnati a great program," said Pequignot. "They've got a terrific coach, they're moving to a great new conference and all the renovations they are doing to the campus are really great. It is great to watch and see the positive changes that are taking place."
However, it really does not seem to matter to Kontras what improvements the Bearcats make during this new era, as just getting the chance to play at UC is what he wants most.
"If I had any sort of offer or chance to play at Cincinnati I would jump at it, "said Kontras. "I wouldn't care if they were playing in the smallest stadium around; I just want to play at UC."
However, earning the chance to make the move from Plain City, Ohio to the campus at Clifton will not be an easy one, as often times getting the first look is the most difficult. Coming from a small town and not appearing overly impressive on tape, it can often times be difficult for a defensive player to get noticed.
"I just hope he gets a looked at by some school and has a chance to play. I know he can make the grade," said Pequignot, who is now taking on the role of grandpa more than UC fan. "I had an older brother who player for Sid [Gillman] at Miami (OH) so that gave me a look, I just hope Jesse will get the same chance."
While having the name of Pequignot in his corner might help earn him a look, the legacy of his grandfather will not earn him a spot on the Cincinnati roster all by itself. Therefore the wishful Bearcat-in-waiting is hoping that his workouts this summer will help earn him the shot that small-town high school football has robbed him of.
"I play a position where it is really difficult to get noticed on the tape alone," said Kontras. "Hopefully, if I go to some of these camps and to the combines and do well, it will get some coaches to take a look at me and maybe make me an offer. I hope that coming to [the UC camp] will payoff, but either way, it has been great opportunity."
At the Cincinnati camp at Colerain HS, Kontras ran a low 4.5-time in the 40-yard dash and played very well in the seven-on-seven drills. He seemed to earn a spot on the radar screen of at least one of the members of the UC coaching staff. Kontras also ran well at the Scout.com Combine held at the University of Akron and at the Toledo camp. Both times measured in the mid-to-low 4.5-range.
"Jesse is such a naturally gifted athlete, he runs so well. I think with his smarts, his athletic ability and his knowledge of the game he would make a great asset to any program," said Pequignot.
While the summer is young and Kontras will have an entire season to prove himself D-I ready, it is quite clear that no matter where he winds up he will have his family behind him. For as much as his family, especially the males, is football and Bearcat-crazed, it is quite clear that they are far more passionate about seeing their (grand)son succeed in life.
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!
FROM THE STAFF AT BEARCAT INSIDER