Top NFL draft prospect honors grandfather – Packers legend and Air Force vet

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Peter Skoronski will in all likelihood hear his name called on Thursday as a first-round pick in the NFL draft. He will be carrying not only his name, but also the legacy of his grandfather, Bob Skoronski.

Bob Skoronski played tackle for nine seasons with the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi and was an offensive captain as the team won three straight championships. He was also an Air Force veteran who missed two seasons to serve his country.

Before the draft, Peter, an offensive tackle from Northwestern, visited Whiteman Air Force Base outside of Kansas City with Texas running back and fellow top NFL draft prospect Bijan Robinson to chat with the military members there and thank them for their service. The trip, which was sponsored by USAA, the official NFL Salute to Service partner, was particularly special for the Skoronski because of his grandfather’s connection to the military.

‘He’s just been the person that I looked up to my whole life and always have wanted to follow his footsteps,’ Skoronski told USA TODAY Sports. ‘So that’s sort of been my motivating factor in my football journey and is sort of what pushed me to get here. So honoring his legacy is tremendously important for me. Definitely doing that on the field and with football, but also with stuff like this and giving back and showing appreciation to our military, which I know meant a lot to him too.’

Besides chatting with service members and getting an exclusive look at a B-2 bomber, Skoronski spent part of the trip seeing the setup for the NFL draft via a helicopter ride in a UH-60 Black Hawk.

NFL Draft Hub: Latest NFL Draft mock drafts, news, live picks, grades and analysis

According to Forbes, the footprint of the draft site is 3.1 million square feet, the biggest in the event’s history. The NFL is expecting 300,000 fans and attendance could approach the record of 600,000 set in 2019, when the event was held in Nashville. Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is even hosting a music festival over the weekend.

Seeing the event space gave Skoronski an idea of the magnitude of what he was about to be a part of.

‘Definitely looks intimidating to be honest, I’m glad I actually won’t even be there,’ he said, ‘‘cause it’s a big space and a big stage. But still cool to just to see how big of an event it is overall and how many people care and are excited about it.’

Peter Skoronski’s heart for the Green Bay Packers

Skoronski will be with his family on the big night and even considered wearing his grandfather’s Packers jersey, ‘but that might be a little too biased.’ 

Even though Skoronski would be happy going to any team that drafted him, he can’t deny his love for the team his grandfather played for, who might need some extra protection around third-year quarterback Jordan Love now that veteran Aaron Rodgers is now a member of the New York Jets. In the trade centered on the veteran quarterback, Green Bay moved up two slots to the No. 13 pick overall.

‘I’m not gonna lie. I grew up a Packers fan,’ Skoronski said. ‘It would be a dream come true in a sense to play for them. … Obviously happy wherever I go and to be part of a team, but the Packers have a special place in my heart.’

He’s modeled his game after Bob, who started all 12 games his rookie year and was responsible for protecting Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr. Bob has not been enshrined in Canton, but Starr himself was an advocate for his inclusion. Peter is ready to accept the challenge of making an impact right away, especially because of his high draft projection.

Besides being a football star, Bob was a family man who once asked Lombardi if his wife and children, including Peter’s father, could travel on the charter plane with them to the pre-Super Bowl championship game.

Peter has fond memories of his grandfather, who died in 2018 at the age of 84. Together, they would go fishing, get frozen custard and talk about sports.

‘We’re just very, kinda similar people to be honest,’ he said. ‘… He was able to make it to a few of my football games growing up, too, which was really special.’

Peter Skoronski on rise of teammate Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern journey

‘I think it’s funny that people just call him a riser or quote-on-quote that he came out of nowhere,’ Skoronski said. ‘‘Cause for me, I’ve always known how good he was and how talented of a player he was. So for me, it makes sense that he’s now very highly touted and seen as a top pick. … As talented as he is, physically, on the field, he’s an even better teammate and person. His work ethic matches, more than matches, what he can do on the field. (He’s) someone that I’m really happy that I got to be a teammate with and share the field with.’

The Wildcats only had one win last season and missed a bowl game for the second straight year after beating Auburn in the 2020 Citrus Bowl. But Skoronski did his best to keep everything in perspective.

‘Always kind of focused on controlling what I can control and just keep getting better,’ he said, ‘and that’s all you can really do regardless of results on the field. So obviously some tough times last season, but just kinda put your head down and work and try to get better and that’ll be my philosophy win, lose or draw.’

This post appeared first on USA TODAY