H.S. Preview: Legacy

Posted by Andrea Murphy on Sep 10 2005 at 05:00PM PDT
By Albert Breer / Daily News Staff Sunday, September 11, 2005 They say, in coachspeak, that the name on the front of the jersey means a heck of a lot more than the one in the back.. Ask Natick High senior Bill Flutie about that one. He'll tell you that, yes, the town where his father and famous uncles grew up means a lot to him. But he'll also tell you there have been times in his life, tough times, when he was anything but another kid from Natick. His name carries a cache in town. It also transcends the borders. Everywhere else, he's never just Billy from Natick. He's The Flutie Kid. "When I was starting with football, I got a lot of that," said Bill, who has verbally committed to Boston College but will miss his senior season with a fractured ankle. "All anyone talked about was my last name. It bugged me for a while." Flutie, you see, wanted to carve his own niche. He was still proud of his family's accomplishments, of course. But he wanted to be known for what he's been able to do. As the sun rises and leaves ripen on a new high school football season in Massachusetts, Flutie is not alone. There's Barry Gallup Jr. from Wellesley and Belmont Hill. Zack Norley at Lincoln-Sudbury. Mark Petercuskie at Holliston. Michael Ohrenberger at Framingham. Shane Krevis at Northbridge. All have last names that mean something because of someone before them. The key, to each of them, is to make a name for themselves. Something unique. Something that each can call his own. That's why Gallup spurned his father Barry Sr.'s alma mater, BC, in the recruiting process. Instead, he'll head to Notre Dame in 2006. "I love BC, I spent my whole life following BC with my dad, and that's been a great experience," Gallup said. "But I felt like I needed to do something for myself. I wanted to be my own person. Going to Notre Dame, I'm just a kid from Massachusetts, as opposed to being Barry Gallup's son." In other words, he'll have the chance to make his own mark. Kid gloves A father or family that has a football legacy doesn't need to tell the younger ones about it. They, without fail, find out about it on their own. For Zach Norley, raised in the town his dad starred in, it was obvious. "Growing up in Syracuse, I knew it from then," the L-S senior quarterback said. "I remember always hearing how good a player he was." Todd Norley was a four-year starter at quarterback for the Orangemen and until last year was the last signal-caller to start at the school as a true freshman. Still, the father steered his sons away from football while they were young. He'd watched his brother, Walt, burn out on the game. A star for powerful Central Bucks West High in Pennsylvania, Walt went to Ohio State as a blue-chip recruit, ended up transferring to Georgia and never saw much of the field at either place because he couldn't stay healthy. He broke ribs, shattered a knee cap. Part of the reason, Todd thought, was that Walt had played the game since he was 7. And Todd didn't want to pressure his kids to play the game either. He wanted it to be their own decision. "I was like most parents," said Todd, whose older son of the same name is a receiver at Bentley. "I just wanted them to be active and get all the great lessons that sports teach, the discipline, work ethic and camaraderie." In the Gallup household, the same dynamic existed. "My dad thought it was important that I wait it out," Barry Jr. said. "That way he thought I wouldn't get sick of it." Sick of it? These kids couldn't wait to play, almost by osmosis. Both signed up in middle school, the minute their parents let them. Petercuskie, on the other hand, didn't have to wait. His dad, Jerry, is the assistant head coach at BC and played there. His uncle John did too, and another uncle, Gary, played for Penn State and went to camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That didn't mean he had to play. His brother, John, played golf, not football, for Holliston. Mark was different. "I always wanted to, since I was younger," said Mark, now a junior linebacker and receiver for the Panthers. "When we moved (from Virginia), I was in the third grade. The first thing I wanted to do was sign up. "(Jerry) always said that I could do whatever I wanted to do, he just encouraged me to work hard and set my goals high." Zach Norley got his shot when his family moved, too. He was 11 and football was on his mind. And Todd was fine with it, happier that it was happening in Sudbury than if it had in Syracuse. "Part of the attraction of moving here was not just business," said the father. "For me, personally, it was that people didn't know the name. I felt like if we had stayed there, the pressure would have been much greater on my kids." As a parent, naturally, he wanted Todd Jr. and Zack to succeed. He just didn't want them to feel as if they had to. Personal adviser Once these players got their feet in football on the ground, they hit that ground running. "It was an advantage because I grew up around football," said Ohrenberger, a Framingham linebacker. "I knew the game better than the others, I had a step on them." Ohrenberger's grandfather Henry Sr. played for BC and his great uncle William is in the school's athletic Hall of Fame. Those two played so long ago that, really, he's a little different than the other kids. None of his buddies growing up really knew about the family history unless Michael told them. Then, he went to BC's summer camp. "Everybody's saying, 'Oh, Ohrenberger, are you related?'" he explained. "I was a deer in the headlights." But he never is on a Friday night with the support he gets from his family. They know the game. And that's an invaluable edge to a high school kid. "(My dad) is always there for feedback when I'm frustrated," said Norley. "He'll tell me what I'm doing wrong. He knows more than you can believe, and he'll tell me everything." For Petercuskie and Gallup, you can take it to another level. Both have fathers who are Division I coaches, and Gallup's dad played and coached the position he plays. "My dad, whenever I'm working out, thinks as a coach," Barry Jr. said. "He's helped me with catching with my hands, my releases, a lot of the technical stuff. He's coached some great receivers, like Kelvin Martin, Darren Flutie and Brian Brennan." "Basically, after every game, he tells me what he thought I did well," added Petercuskie. "After that, he tells me that I could've done this or that. That if I'm blitzing, to stay a little lower or how to take on a block better. "He's always right." Krevis' dad, Al, played in the NFL for the Jets and Bengals. His oldest brother Matt is a junior on the Brown football team and another older brother, Andy, is prepping at Milford (N.Y.) Academy and being recruited by Iowa, Michigan State and BC. So it goes without saying that an example has been set. "It's motivation," said Shane, a junior safety/receiver for Northbridge. "Just watching them, and seeing them going through hard work, made me realize that I had to work hard too." When Doug Flutie signed with the Patriots in April, Bill Jr. wasn't just watching his uncle anymore. He got him as a teacher. He'd always had his dad -- Bill was a star receiver at Brown and what Junior called "a great coach" -- but with Doug it was a little different. Playing the same position as his uncle, he's got an NFL quarterback by his side. "Doug showed me a lot, he's still coaching me up," said Bill Flutie. "He'll go to the high school with me to work out and throw, and he'll tell me what I'm doing wrong. It's great having him. It's a plus for me, and I have to take advantage of it." Dave Teggert, Algonquin Regional's promising junior kicker, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father, Dave, who still holds the record for longest field goal (53 yards) at New Hampshire. "Pretty much every day this summer we went over to the fields and practiced kicking," said Teggert, whose career-best at Algonquin is 42 yards. "It's definitely a big advantage. He knows all the stuff. He takes film of me and we break it down. We talk about preparation for the kick and make sure I'm ready to take each kick because if one thing gets thrown off, the whole kick can be messed up. We talk about all the pressure stuff. You have to want to be the guy that's good under pressure." The kids aren't the only ones taking advantage. Family bonding Todd Norley doesn't see the football part as the best thing about his sons playing. What's better is the link that closes the generation gap, and the fact that he and his kids don't lack for things to talk about. "Probably the most important thing to me, as a father, is that they still like it," he said. "It's a common bond and conversation piece, not just in-season but leading up to it. Being a father, it's a dream come true to have that connection." The Fluties have it, too. And it's not just in football. All sports bring the troops together. That's why Billy, as a kid, played five different sports. That's why Doug, as an uncle, still hoops with his brothers in Natick. "Way back to when I was in the little league, it's what unified our family," said Doug. "All the kids down at the field, my sister playing softball, the boys playing baseball, and my parents coaching or working the concession stand. It's still that way now, with all my nieces and nephews and my daughter." That kind of connection exists in tradition for the Ohrenberger family. It's been a couple of generations since any of them have been high profile, but that's not what counts. A tradition was set back then that continues to this day. "It's how on Thanksgiving, I always remember going to a game and watching the game on TV after," Michael said. "There's three generations sitting there on the couch, sitting and watching. Football doesn't change. The uniforms and the offense and defenses might, but it's always gonna be a hard-nosed game and we all appreciate that." Take pride in it, too. Pride in performance These legacies, kids with expectations and high goals, no longer hide from what their names mean. As they get older, they embrace those things. "Everyone knows I'm a Krevis," Shane said. "I know everyone expects a lot. And that doesn't bother me." Petercuskie, whose father and uncle grew up in Holliston, is always asked about it by the old guard in town. A chip off the old block? Yes, I am. "I feel that sometimes I'd put pressure on myself to be as good," he said. "Now it's not that kind of pressure as much. I want to do it for myself, and I set my goals high." For the rest of the families, it's a chance to see something that happened years, maybe decades ago, replay right in front of their eyes. The kids don't have to be the same. They are different. And that's OK. "Nothing has been handed to Billy," said Doug Flutie. "He's worked for every little thing he's gotten. I think the impression is that it's natural. The truth is that he's worked his tail off." The result, in all these cases, is exactly what each family was looking for. Yeah, the wins and numbers are nice. The experience is even better. "I'd be lying if I said this wasn't all a dream," said Todd Norley. "It used to be that I'd start to look forward to the games on Thursday. Now, it's on Tuesday. I love it." They all do. So sure, the name on the front of the jersey is pretty important. But sometimes, the one on the back means just as much.


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