Skoronski stands apart in NFL draft class of legacy players


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Peter Skoronski looks like a custom-built NFL offensive lineman.

He stands 6-foot-4, weighs 313 pounds and has 10-inch hands. He earned all-Big Ten honors three straight years at Northwestern, was named the league’s top lineman last season and honed his skills by working against defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore, another top draft prospect.

Yet he might not even be the best player in a family where the football bloodlines run deep.

Peter’s father, Bob Jr., was a star defensive lineman at Yale in the 1970s. His great uncles, Gene and Ted, played at Harvard in the 1960s. And now there’s about to be a new branch on the family tree as Peter follows his grandfather, Bob, the offensive captain on Vince Lombardi’s five championship teams, into the NFL.

Yes, even in a draft class full of family ties, Skoronski and his stories stand apart.

“There was the one when he was getting ice cream with his family, my dad and uncles and aunt,” Skoronski said. “Lombardi was on him about keeping his weight down, stuff like that. He was getting ice cream and Lombardi walked into the ice cream shop, he saw him and hid the cone behind his back so Lombardi wouldn’t see him eating the ice cream.”

Back then, the blindside protector of Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr weighed a svelte 249 pounds. Today, the youngest Skoronski hears more about short arms and a possible move from tackle to guard than his eating habits.

He’s certainly not alone in this landscape, where plenty of other draft hopefuls have embarked on similar journeys and show up with the tales to prove it.

Cornerback Joey Porter Jr. still remembers doing one-on-one drills against then Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. As a college sophomore, Jalen Wayne started taking pointers from his second cousin, Hall of Fame nominee Reggie Wayne.

Running back Keaton Mitchell talks about winning a Super Bowl ring like his father, Anthony, did with the Baltimore Ravens. Running back Bijan Robinson, like Skoronski, represents his grandfather, Cleo, a former college linebacker and longtime Pac-12 official who grew up in extreme poverty and had no running water. Cleo Robinson’s brother, Paul, made two Pro Bowls with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Defensive end Viliami Fehoko Jr. often draws questions about whether he’s related to the Haka-dancing, football-playing Fehoko family and former University of Hawaii entertainer Vili the Warrior. He’s not. But he is a second cousin of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea.

“I get that question like 10 times a day,” Fehoko said when asked about the other Fehoko family. “Vita kind of set the tone for our family, football-wise. Just seeing the family do it at the next level, at the highest level you can, is motivating for me.”

Defensive line prospects PJ Mustipher and BJ Ojulari also could be reunited with their NFL playing brothers, Sam Mustipher, formerly of the Chicago Bears, and Azeez Ojulari of the New York Giants. Or they could just be establishing another round of sibling rivalries.

Either way, the younger brothers refuse to back down in the constant pursuit for bragging rights.

“Everything we did growing up, we competed,” BJ Ojulari said. “Playing video games, we used to butt heads all the time. At the end of the day, I think that made us closer. He’s one of my best friends and best mentors now.”

But for some, this is more than just a pursuit to showcase the next chapter in the family legacy. The challenge is exceeding the standards set by relatives like Porter’s father, an energetic one-time Super Bowl champ and two-time All-Pro.

The elder Porter finished his career with 98 sacks, 43rd all-time, and is still No. 5 on the Steelers career list with 60.

“My dad’s been there before,” Porter Jr. said. “He’s done it. I want to do the same thing and just be better. That’s the main thing. He always told me he wants me to be better than him, so that’s what I’m going to strive to do and that’s why I’m here.”

Skoronski knows how difficult that challenge will be for him if the measuring stick is his grandfather, who died in 2018 following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

But Peter Skoronski’s ultimate goal was never about outperforming his grandfather.

He just wants to put the cherry on top of the Skoronski playbook in a manner that would make his late ice cream-eating grandfather and the late Lombardi both celebrate – even if it means giving up his lifelong Packers fandom to play for the dreaded Chicago Bears.

“He’s sort of been my football mentor ever since I was born. I just always looked up to him and wanted to follow in his footsteps,” the youngest Skoronski said. “This is a dream continuing in his legacy, him being part of such great teams and winning two Super Bowls and five championships. That’s sort of a Skoronski family legend.”

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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