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Immortalizing Bob Junko: the Pitt Man Who Will Never Leave the Program



Pitt held its annual alumni golf outing Friday, with former and current coaches and players back in town for a day of reminiscing, and after the long day out hitting the links, Bob Junko feels five years younger.

Junko rode around on a golf cart with former Pitt star Sam Clancy, trying to find all the past players and coaches he couldn’t spend time with Thursday night, but it was hard to find the time to reach everyone. Junko’s been around for a while, and he’s influenced a lot of people. However, he was able to find a lot of past players — sharing handshakes and long-lost stories along the way.

It was the first time talking with some of the former Pitt stars in years, but it was as if Junko hadn’t missed a beat. He admitted that while he didn’t remember every name, he could remember exactly what position, what high school and where they played. And if Clancy wasn’t able to remember a name, he’d ask.

It was hard for Junko to explain the rush of emotions in seeing guys — just kids at the time he first met them — he hadn’t seen in decades, but it brought back a lot of good memories.

With the Pitt alumni golf outing Friday, an event that occurs every year, it was particularly special for Junko. It was announced Thursday that, with the help of J.D. Kavanaugh, the Pitt defensive line room has been renamed, “The Bob Junko Defensive Line Meeting Room.”

“It’s just unbelievable being given that honor, to have one of the coaches’ rooms — where the defensive line meeting room is — named in my honor because there are some great men in that office area with the coaches’ names on the wall,” Junko told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I’m very appreciative, very honored.”

Junko couldn’t believe that he was being given the honor of having a positional room — a room as prestigious as the defensive line room — named after him, but after decades as a key figure in Pitt’s football program, there isn’t a person alive who would doubt his credentials or the impact he’s made at Pitt.

“I feel very humbled by it,” Junko said. “I couldn’t believe it because I’ve never heard of anybody getting an award like that or whatever it was. To see all those (past players), and they come up and they relay the stories of this or that, it really was heartwarming. You’re dumbfounded by it. I don’t coach for any award or anything like that, I coach for being a coach and being a good person and stuff like that, and showing them a special thing.”

Junko, who served as basically every position across Pitt’s coaching staff during his time in Pittsburgh, still couldn’t believe the honor — even with record turnouts for Pitt’s golf outing Friday. For him, it wasn’t anything but the bonds built — the bonds built between people as opposed to coach and player — that made it all worth it.

“I’m very blessed and very honored to have been here at Pitt for so many years and seen all the guys that have come through here,” Junko said. “It’s just special. When your son’s there with you because he was part of the team and stuff like that, that was great. I don’t know if I can put it down; all I can say is, ‘Hail to Pitt.'”

Pitt is somewhere where Junko takes pride, it’s a comfortable place, and the young men he helped earn degrees are the real reason for that. When Junko caught up with his former players, it wasn’t about football. It was about family, jobs and what was going on in their lives. Life is about more than football, after all, the friendships made do not have a price tag.

However, even though he’s proud of holding the honor of labeling the defensive line room, it’s all their credit.

“All I know is it’s their room, and they’ve got one heckuva football coach here in Charlie Partridge,” Junko said. “They’re all Pitt men, and they’re gonna perform like Pitt men. That’s great.”

Junko worked at Pitt for nearly 30 years in many different capacities, most recently as the Director of Player Development and High School Relations. He initially started at Pitt in1982 until 1985 as the defensive coordinator under Foge Fazio. Junko returned to Pitt in 1997 and worked for Walt Harris as the assistant head coach and as the defensive tackles coach.

During his coaching tenure, Junko coached standouts such as Hall of Famer Chris Doleman, Tim Lewis, Tom Flynn, Bill Mass and worked with 15 first-team All-Americans.

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.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 year ago

Bill Maas

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