To become universally beloved in a city like Pittsburgh, it takes a certain kind of person. It’s nearly impossible to somehow blend unflappable enthusiasm, tireless dedication and the know-how to rise to the very pinnacle of one’s position.
It doesn’t happen often, but to be fair, it’s nearly impossible to find someone like Bob Junko.
The legendary Pitt staffer, who’s spent just under 30 years at Pitt as defensive coordinator, defensive tackles coach, assistant head coach, recruiting coordinator, director of football relations and program enhancement and director of player development and high school relations, is officially retiring. The news came after Friday’s practice, with head coach Pat Narduzzi confirming just how beloved the long-time with the program and the community.
“He’s impacted every one of our players on this team,” Narduzzi said Friday at the UPMC Rooney Complex on the South Side. “Everybody that’s here, coach Junko’s touched them. He’s awesome, we wish him luck and we’re gonna miss him. But I’m sure he’ll still be around, he gets in, gets his workout every day. He’s always got a place here at Pitt.”
Junko and his wife Judy may be riding off into the sunset, as Narduzzi said, but he’ll always represent what it means to be a Pitt man through and through.
Happy Retirement, Bob Junko! 👏
Pitt salutes and thanks a man whose relentless positivity and incredible football mind has impacted so many.
54 years as a coach, including 30 at the University of Pittsburgh.
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) March 4, 2022
In Junko’s nearly 30 years at Pitt, he became a staple in the lives of Pitt’s student-athletes. Junko is beloved by the players and coaches alike, along with all of those he’s impacted in just brief interactions or lasting bonds alike, and his interactions with guys like Jared Wayne and Owen Drexel won’t be forgotten any time soon.
“Man, he means so much to this program,” Wayne said Friday. “Just seeing him and the enthusiasm he brings every day, never misses a day. I think that just inspires us as players and coaches to give it our all every day.”
Like Narduzzi, Wayne echoed the sentiment that Junko is Pitt. The energy and enthusiasm he displayed are infectious within the program, and Wayne personally can’t thank him for all he’s done for the program. And he’s not alone in that sentiment.
“Oh, I love Coach Junk,” Drexel said Friday. “He’s such a special guy. Everyday walking by his office. I love him to death.”
Junko’s Pitt career began in 1982 when he was hired as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for former Pitt coach Foge Fazio. He spent four seasons in Pittsburgh, helping Pitt to a 25-18-3 record with two major bowl appearances.
After moving on to Northwestern, Akron and Kent State following his first stint at Pitt, he returned in 1997 under head coach Walt Harris. And he hasn’t left since.
Junko’s love of football was furthered at Tulsa in the late 1960s, serving as an honorable All-American linebacker for the Golden Hurricane, after growing up in Washington, Pa.
He’s been named to the Tulsa Sports Hall of Fame, Trinity High School Hall of Fame, the Washington-Greene County chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame and he’s an honorary letterman from the Pitt Varsity Letter Club — signifying the impact he’s made at every level of football.
Junko’s energy and enthusiasm at Pitt will be dearly missed, but he will continue to be the heart and soul of Pitt football even after his time as a member of Pitt’s coaching staff has come to an end.
“Oh, it’s the energy that he brings,” Drexel said. “I’m not sure if you guys heard it at the end of practice, but his famous thing is, ‘Saw that wood.’ He’s the energy, definitely the heartbeat of this team.”
The Junko name at Pitt isn’t leaving either. Bob’s grandsons Joshua, a wide receiver, and Caleb, a specialist, are currently on Pitt’s roster.