"That's how you do it."
Ryan Klachko
Ryan Klachko

Posted Dec 20, 2010


I have to admit that I have always had a problem with linemen who were a bit too articulate. Sometimes it tends to show a bit of that softer side, I guess. Well, Ryan Klachko is articulate to be sure, but don't let the big words fool ya, he'll rip your arm off and show it to you.

In the course of a conversation which was meant to simply get some quotes about the recent in-home visit by Head Coach Bo Pelini and Offensive Line Coach Barney Cotton - we spun off in a few different directions.

And one of them was about the offensive line now, some of its most prominent members and just about the whole mind-set of a lineman.

You see, I guess I am guilty of taking the words and thinking a bit too much about them in regard to how someone might play. But come on, these linemen, the slobberknockers, the bigguns, the big uglies in the middle - they aren't supposed to enunciate. Hell, they aren't even supposed to know what "enunciate" means.

But Ryan does and yes, he knows.

So, we are talking, and the talk got to Bo Pelini and his in-home visit with Klachko.

You see, we in the media don't often see the other side of Bo. Actually, and I am speaking for myself, I've never seen it. So, the guy I see is tense most of the time, angst-filled much of that and his answers are extremely short.

That's not what Klachko saw. Not even close, and the Husker to-be even used a word to describe Pelini's overall demeanor, which I am sure you have never heard, read or even imagined.

"He's soothing. I'm not kidding you. Coach Pelini just talks to you like anyone else, but he's just a very cool and calm guy to talk to," Ryan said. "He just says that he's a black and white kind of guy, and when it came to me that they said I had imperfections, but with my size, feet and all that they thought I could be a good lineman for them down the road."

Not exactly the fire and brimstone stuff we have seen from Pelini on many occasions, many of which you can name off the top of your head. Oh, and that's another thing that Klachko said about Pelini that convinced him to be a Husker even more after he had already committed.

It was Bo's demeanor on the sideline, and you'd be surprised at Ryan's reaction, because if you listen to other people around the sports world, Pelini is a rabid dog wearing earphones.

Again, not to Klachko.

"If I wasn't already 120 percent a Husker before I saw coach Pelini going off on one of those deals, I was 150 percent a Husker after them," he said. "I grew up with a hardnosed Russian father and a hardnosed Irish mother, and a verbal lashing was the least of my worries. When I'd get in trouble at school or something, they would say they were calling my mom and all I would be praying for is that she would just chew me out. Please just chew me out. If it was just a butt chewing, that would make it a good day."

OK, so Ryan was a bit of a rabble rouser? The mystery deepens, and I find myself being a little more at ease about this other side of him that gets good grades, is well spoken and has mannerisms of a gentleman who actually says "please" and "thank you."

That's when he starts talking about his younger days. No, not Pop Warner, but a bit more recent. More specifically, his freshman and sophomore years of prep ball. You see, he didn't play offensive line then. He played defensive line instead, and as Ryan recalls, he wasn't exactly the nicest kid on the block. "I was kind of a prick, to be honest. I was just the biggest one in the world," Klachko recalled. "That's when Coach (John) Sowinski, who I have always called my everything - coach, basically pulled me aside, said I could be a great offensive guard, but I just needed to calm the hell down."

A former Marine, Coach Sowinski had an obvious aura about him, which was combined with a way to do things that Ryan said shaped his life. "He taught me how to play the game. He taught me how to act on and off the field, how to buy flowers for a woman and your shirt better damn well be tucked in," he said. "He was everything to me. He was my coach for everything. He was it.

"And that's what he taught me off the field.

"On the field, rip someone's arm off and feed it to them in front of their family and point at them," he continued. "I had rage and anger and all that, but he showed me how to focus it where it needed to go, and once you threw that helmet on, you kill someone."

It's sad to say, and as Ryan said, this is another story, but Coach Sowinski passed away Ryan's junior year. So, you can imagine that those teachings from a coach and person he so cherished, set in all the more. You could say they are as much a part of him as anything he's experienced throughout his young life.

But it's a life he can't wait to live.

I listen to the young man and yeah, he's articulate, but he's got that other side. And like redshirt freshman Jeremiah Sirles proved, guys who speak well and even do a little theatre acting from time to time, can also clean a 300-pounder's clock, all the way to the echo of the whistle.

Call it a duality that sits just fine with guys like this. It sits well, because they know the difference, and when the time comes, they can flip that switch into the on-position.

Then it's game time.

"How you act off the field is how you want others to look at you. How you act on the field is how you need to, to knock the hell out of the guy on the other side," he said. "I have done that here, and I can't wait to do that at Nebraska. It's doing what I have been taught to do.

"Because that's how you do it."



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