JIM PETERS: Hobart football roots still impact Palyok

2013-10-02T17:00:00Z 2013-10-03T03:18:06Z JIM PETERS: Hobart football roots still impact PalyokJim Peters Times Columnist nwitimes.com
October 02, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

On a shelf in John Palyok's West Los Angeles home sits an old Gatorade bottle filled with dirt.

It isn't there for ambiance. It's there to remind Palyok who he is and from where he came.

The 1991 Hobart graduate and a starting offensive guard on the '89 state championship football team scooped the dirt from the Dust Bowl, the practice 'field' above the famed Brickie Bowl where legendary coach Don Howell and his staff forged boys into young men.

"Whatever I do in life, it's because of what was done for me," Palyok said. "They definitely molded me into who am and what I've become, telling me to not ever give up, that if you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. The discipline at Hobart, it was always in the water, the culture the coaching created, There's definitely an emotional attachment. It's something I'll never forget."

On the rare occasion Palyok has a chance to come home, without fail, he stops by the old hallowed grounds and just stares.

"It gives me goosebumps, chills, thinking about it," he said. "The blood, sweat, tears, the battles, those are memories of a lifetime."

Palyok can almost hear the thunderous post-game chant: All my life, I wanna be a Brickie, work, work, work! The once-scrawny kid who got picked on at the bus stop sat in the stands with his dad, dreaming of wearing the gold helmet some day like his heroes on the field.

"Somebody saw something in me," Palyok said. "I remember Coach (Tom) Kerr and Coach Howell telling me, 'You're going to eat vanilla ice cream and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before bed,' and I said, 'Yes, sir.' (Track) Coach (Jim) Johnston was my Mr. Miyogi. I remember my dad saying, 'He's got you splitting logs and I can't get you to rake leaves in the front yard.'"

The Brickies won state Palyok's junior season. He and current coach Ryan Turley were captains in 1990, when Hobart was runner-up, losing to Franklin Central. Palyok bulked up to 250 pounds as a sophomore at Valparaiso University. His senior year, the Crusaders went 7-3, knocking off Turley's previously-unbeaten Butler team. The life-long friends remain in touch, though Palyok has rebuffed requests to join Turley on the sidelines.

Palyok graduated from Valpo with a sports management degree in '95 and earned his master's in business administration in '97. He moved to the west coast, expecting to carve a niche in the growing dot-com industry when his course took a sharp turn.

While establishing a new life in the City of Angels, Palyok was approached at a bar about appearing on Survivor.

"I thought it was a joke," he said.

Ironically, Palyok had sent in a tape to the show, only to not hear back. He was a contestant on Survivor Vanuatu in 2006. Buff and handsome, Palyok certainly fit the part. He went without water for a week, losing 26 pounds before being voted off by "five old, fat guys."

"It was an absolutely amazing experience," Palyok said. "I had the ability to fish, build shelter, start a fire, but on the show, I was the guy everybody backstabbed. I found out the more you opened your mouth, the faster you get kicked off."

What kept Palyok going then and always were his Brickies roots, the constant urging to keep pushing.

In 2005, he took a job at Best Buy. Two years later, he became manager at the third-largest store on the coast.

"'JP's work ethic on the football field has certainly transferred to his role as Best Buy general manager," Best Buy spokesman Jon Sandler said. "He is always in motion — leading, managing ... and serving our customers."

For Palyok, life has come full circle in a sense. Impacted in his formative years, he is now doing the same as a coach of sorts for a staff of 130.

"What Hobart has done for me, I parlayed into a career," he said. "To see others show up and work hard to succeed, it's rewarding. It's like that kid looking up to the player. I'm just wearing a lighter shade of blue now."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.peters@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Fan Poll

Loading…

Which school has the area's best girls cross country team?

View Results

Follow your school

Duneland Conference

Chesterton Trojans
News
Crown Point Bulldogs
News
Lake Central Indians
News
LaPorte Slicers
News
Merrillville Pirates
News
Michigan City Wolves
News
Portage Indians
News
Valparaiso Vikings
News

Greater South Shore Conference

Bishop Noll Warriors
News
Calumet Warriors
News
Lake Station Eagles
News
Michigan City Marquette Blazers
News
North Newton Spartans
News
River Forest Ingots
News
Wheeler Bearcats
News
Whiting Oilers
News

Great Lakes Athletic Conference

Clark Pioneers
News
Gavit Gladiators
News
Hammond Wildcats
News
Morton Governors
News

Hoosier Conference

Rensselaer Bombers
News

Northwest Crossroads Conference

Andrean 59ers
News
Griffith Panthers
News
Highland Trojans
News
Hobart Brickies
News
Kankakee Valley Kougars
News
Lowell Red Devils
News
Munster Mustangs
News

Northwestern Conference

Lew Wallace Hornets
News
Roosevelt Panthers
News
West Side Cougars
News

Porter County Conference

Boone Grove Wolves
News
Hanover Central Wildcats
News
Hebron Hawks
News
Kouts Mustangs/Fillies
News
LaCrosse Tigers
News
Morgan Twp. Cherokees
News
South Central Satellites
News
Washington Twp. Senators
News
Westville Blackhawks
News

Independents

Bowman Academy Eagles
News
Calumet Christian
News
Campagna Academy
News
Covenant Christian Knights
News
E.C. Central Cardinals
News
Hammond Baptist Swordsman
News
Luther East Eagles
News

Chicago Catholic League

Mt. Carmel Caravan
News
Seton Academy Sting
News
St. Francis deSales Pioneers
News

Chicago Public League

Washington Minutemen/Minutewomen
News

East Suburban Catholic

Marian Catholic Spartans
News

Metro Suburban

Illiana Christian Vikings
News

River Valley Conference

Beecher Bobcats/Ladycats
News
Illinios Lutheran Chargers
News

South Suburban Blue

T.F. North Meteors
News
T.F. South Rebels
News

Southland Athletic Conference

Bloom Twp. Blazin' Trojans
News
Crete-Monee Warriors
News

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings
News

SouthWest Suburban Red

Thornridge Falcons
News
Thornton Wildcats
News
Thornwood Thunderbirds
News