And if you think it started at the time Eisenhower High School graduates Stefanie Santo and her younger brother Andrew enrolled at Penn State University, dig deeper.
Their father, Tom, has been an avid Penn State fan since 1970 when Warren Area High School’s own Ed O’Neill played linebacker for Joe Paterno. The Santo family has been football season ticket holders since 1983.
“The kids have been going to football and basketball games (at Penn State) since they were two years old,” said Tom. “We actually do bleed Blue and White.”
Dig even deeper.
Tom’s father and Stef’s and Andrew’s grandfather, Ralph J. Santo, received his master’s degree from Penn State University over 60 years ago.
Tom’s wife, Molly, is a Purdue grad, but quickly became a Penn Stater. “My wife’s side has been season ticket holders since the 1940’s,” said Tom.
“Penn State has a huge impact on our family, and our lives in general,” he said. “There have been 29 family members attend Penn State over the years.”
But have any of them held a Big Ten championship trophy?
Penn State senior Stefanie Santo has.
“I always wanted to come here, but never knew what I wanted to do when I was here,” she said.
Santo is a head team manager for Penn State University’s Division I women’s basketball program – the two-time defending regular-season Big Ten champion Lady Lions basketball program.
Among other tasks through the university athletic department. She also assists the athletic director and event managers in other sports at Penn State. She worked at the NCAA men’s volleyball national championships, for example.
She met Penn State men’s volleyball player Matt Anderson at the event, and later saw him on TV, playing for Team USA at the Olympics.
I mean, are you kidding me? She might fly in a private jet as often as the President of the U.S.
Stefanie is swimming with dolphins as we speak, having traveled with the Lady Lions to the Bahamas this weekend for the Junkanoo Jam.
“I’ve been busy from October to March,” said Stefanie, a senior who has accepted a finance position starting in June with Dick’s Sporting Goods – a job offer she says was helped by the organizational skills she learned as a Penn State women’s hoops manager.
Through all the “on the floor” responsibilities, Santo is juggling a lot in addition to being a student.
Setting up the gym, chairs, Gatorade, towels, bringing out warm-up equipment like stretch cords, helping with practice drills… First and foremost, with a staff of eight to 10, whatever the coaches need.
“After the first few practices, I’d call my dad afterward,” said Stefanie, “and tell him a lot of the stuff (her former high school coach, Dave Allenson) was teaching us (at Eisenhower) is stuff they were doing at the D-I school.
“How well they were doing it, I think it’s showed me how difficult it really is,” she said. “The thing that was shocking is how hard these girls go at practice, how much time they spend on (perfecting their skills in) basketball.”
Then there’s Andrew, a team manager for the Penn State University Division I men’s basketball program.
“When it actually started, I don’t think I understood what I was getting into,” said Andrew, a junior electrical engineering major, and video connoisseur for the men’s basketball team. “I actually knew nothing about video, so there was a lot of trial and error.
“I didn’t realize how important film was,” he said, “when you can actually show a player, rather than just tell him.”
What he does is do the coaches’ dirty work.
“Let’s say they want to see all the ball screens from (6-10 Michigan State senior center) Adreian Payne, for example,” said Andrew.
He finds them on tape for them.
Not just Penn State games; “Anybody on TV, they can pick it up,” said Tom. “When (a coach) says, give me all the post-up moves of someone from Purdue, they can go and pull that and chop it up.”
Spending 20 to 25 hours on a given week in the film room, or taping games, “My time management is probably as good as anyone you’ve ever met,” said Andrew.
“I always knew coming to Penn State I wanted to be involved in a sport,” said Andrew.
What he got instead was an experience like no other.
Forget his trip to Puerto Rico with the team last Thanksgiving, or to New York City this weekend; “It actually helps a lot during (job) interviews,” he said.
“I’ve learned such great skills, like managing my time during basketball,” said Stefanie. “They call it March Madness, and it’s a play on words, but after last year I totally understand how crazy it is.
“My dad always pushed us, but because he did is the reason I’m where I’m at now,” said Stefanie. “Trips across the country, a little bit of a scholarship, some gear, playing basketball against team managers from other schools; those are the perks. But I feel like the biggest thing is being part of the team, the energy when we are playing a big game. I can’t recreate those moments ever again.
“I’m really grateful for my parents, who always wanted the best for us,” she said. “Andrew and I have wanted to come to Penn State our whole lives, and now we’re getting a better experience than I could have ever imagined.”
No wonder dad and mom visit every weekend.
“I couldn’t be prouder of all the kids,” said Tom. “The places they have gone and the people they have met will impact them for the rest of their entire lives. Penn State athletics and basketball in particular have been incredible to both kids. The benefits can’t even begin to be measured. They have experienced things that most people just dream about.
“Hopefully Kari will be following in her siblings’ footsteps in Happy Valley next year!”