BY: Steve Wilaj
It was an unusually hot July 1 afternoon in Youngstown — and as I watched Bo Pelini address a large group of kids at the Mooney Camp of Champions — one thought immediately struck me.
Pelini, the new Youngstown State head football coach as of Tuesday night, is a passionate guy. Very passionate. More specifically, he’s very passionate about his hometown.
The head coach of Nebraska at the time, he spoke to the kids at this youth football camp (which I was covering for The Vindicator) with purpose. Make no mistake, Bo wasn’t there to just pay his due diligence to his alma mater Youngstown Cardinal Mooney.
He was truly passionate about leaving his mark on the camp — which he’s attended every year since its inception 12 years ago. He very much believes in serving the city that he derives from.
“Do things the right way and be a leader,” Bo told a group of around 100 kids that day. “Listen to the people that care about you. It sounds simple, but we all know it’s not that simple these days.”
His t-shirt was soaked with sweat. His eyes were fierce. His demeanor demanded attention. For the five minutes he spoke, it was easy to forget the 90-degree weather and get caught up in his message.
“I try to give back and be a part of things like this because [Youngstown] did a lot for me,” Pelini told me afterwards. “You have to try to give back in return.”
Looking back on the way he acted and spoke that day, it’s no surprise that Pelini — with all due respect — took a step down and accepted the YSU position. With his past experience (eight years as an NFL assistant, four years as an FBS assistant and six years as an FBS head coach), he could have easily joined another prominent FBS school’s staff or even returned to the pros.
But it’s apparent a certain passion for Youngstown burns within Bo. There’s a desire to give back to his hometown. And in this case, that would be to return a struggling football program to prominence.
“It’s good to be back in town,” Pelini said during Wednesday’s introductory press conference. A few moments later, he then added a statement that surely sounds like music to the ears of any Penguins fan.
“I want to fill this place up. I want to get people excited about Youngstown State football again,” Pelini said — with passion, of course.