Giants' Bear Pascoe inherits rodeo passion
Every player in the NFL is unique and has interests off the playing field. Every week this season, espnW will profile a player to learn about his other passions. We call it Street Clothes.
Bear Pascoe's given name is McKenna Sean Pascoe. But that name never got much use.
McKenna, who weighed a hefty 10 pounds at birth, looked like a "big ol' bear cub," said his father, Sean.
"We started calling him Bear, and it stuck," Sean said. "Very few people know his real name."
New York Giants fans know the 6-foot-5 Pascoe as a workhorse tight end who mostly blocks and occasionally snags a pass from Eli Manning. In fact, Pascoe caught four balls for 33 yards in the Giants' Super Bowl win over the Patriots last season after catching a touchdown pass -- his first in almost three dozen games with Big Blue -- in the NFC title game against the San Francisco 49ers, the team that drafted him in the sixth round in 2009 and waived him that same year.
What most fans don't know -- heck, most of his teammates don't know -- is that Pascoe has a passion for rodeo. If all goes according to plan, that's where you can expect to find him when his football career is over: in the ring, roping up a storm.
Pascoe, 26, grew up in central California, where his family runs a working cattle ranch and where hard work is something you do before the sun rises. Once upon a time, young Bear was one of the best up-and-coming team ropers in the sport. He won jackpots -- weekend events in rodeo -- and even a V8 truck that he still keeps at the family ranch. (During the NFL season, Pascoe drives a one-ton Dodge mega cab; he feels uncomfortable in anything smaller, such as the Cadillac his fiancée, Katie, drives.)
For the uninitiated, team roping works like this: Two teammates, each riding a horse, must lasso a calf -- with one teammate responsible for the head and the other for the feet -- while racing against the clock.
Roping and football go hand in hand for the Pascoe clan. Dad played linebacker at Colorado State in the 1970s and still competes on the rodeo circuit. Bear, who idolized his father, played quarterback in high school and was recruited to Fresno State at that position.
"If you were a man born into the Pascoe family, you were doomed to rope and play football," Sean said. "All of my brothers played ball and roped. It was just something that we did."
Bear moved to tight end entering his sophomore season at Fresno State. The Bulldogs had lost their starter to graduation, and the coaches weren't about to have a player of Pascoe's size and skill standing on the sideline holding a clipboard, especially a guy who was happy to make the position switch. Although Pascoe isn't particularly fast -- the 49ers cited his lack of foot speed when they waived him -- he is steady, strong and sure-handed.
Because of the demands that football places on Pascoe's body, he is woefully out of practice when it comes to team roping. During the offseason, he is careful about what he does on the ranch, mostly riding horses, relaxing and handling less strenuous chores. Just when he starts to get comfortable in the saddle again, it's time to head off to training camp.
But Bear and his dad see plenty of overlap between the two sports, emphasizing the strength and agility required for roping and football. "People don't realize how many muscles you use when you ride a horse," Sean said. Bear notes the exceptional hand-eye coordination necessary to lasso on the move. "And team roping is the main sport that helped me develop my competitive edge," Bear said.
(A year ago at Giants camp, Pascoe grabbed a rope from the backseat of his truck and demonstrated a few tricks for some of the guys. "But that's as far as it's gone," he said with a laugh, making sure to stress that his bosses need not worry about their tight end wrestling steers on his days off.)
When most people hear "rodeo," they think of bull riding, a dangerous sport whose participants have a short shelf life, not unlike football players. But team roping is a discipline that cowboys can compete in for years.
"He'll be competitive at rodeo when he's done with football," said Sean, who joined the pro circuit after college. "There are a lot of guys doing it in their 40s."
For now, Bear is happy to wait.
"That lifestyle, the ranch lifestyle, will always be there for me," he said. "It's what I know. But to come out here and experience this type of lifestyle and to play in the NFL -- it doesn't last very long. And I'm trying to take advantage of it."
When he's not in his Giants uniform, Pascoe is almost always in a pair of Wranglers -- the cowboy uniform. He and Katie, who also comes from a rodeo family, have grown fond of the Big Apple. They enjoy seeing Broadway shows and discovering great restaurants. They love the adventure of living in a big urban environment that offers a completely different flavor than their usual rural pursuits.
But Pascoe knows exactly where he's going when his playing days are over.
Back to the ranch.