Back-to-back: Running backs linked by Eisenhower record book, linked by mutual acquaintances

Grateful… Thankful… for breaking his record.

When you find out the guy whose record you’ve broken is going to be around for Thanksgiving, of course you want to meet him.

Even better, there’s a connection with the former record-holder’s sister-in-law; she’s friends with the new record-holder’s mom.

John Pascuzzi has been wanting to meet Warren Sports Hall of Famer and Clarion University Sports Hall of Famer Steve Witte for years.

“My mom and Christin Borger actually set it up,” said Pascuzzi, a 2013 graduate of Eisenhower High School. “They were talking and found out that Steve was her brother-in-law and that I was Wanda’s son. Christin said that Steve would be coming over to their house for Thanksgiving, and said he would like to meet (me).”

Witte (1992 graduate), who has held a handful of Eisenhower High School’s football records, has been reading about the young man whose football career has somewhat resembled his own.

“It was a very nice meeting and good to meet the guy I’ve been reading about in the paper over the past several years,” said Witte recently.

Witte’s Eisenhower High School records still held include: 1,586 rush yards in a season, 25 touchdowns in a season, 42 touchdowns in a career, 1,785 yards from scrimmage in a season, 3,569 yards from scrimmage in a career, and several others.

Twenty years later, Pascuzzi’s senior year (2013) included 1,582 yards, four yards shy of Witte’s single-season record. His 3,198 career rushing yards at Ike surpassed Witte’s 3,115. He had 501 career rush attempts to Witte’s 465, a record 339 yards rushing in a game, and tied a record, along with Witte, with four rushing touchdowns in a game.

A lot to digest.

The meeting between the two was full of reminiscing about Eisenhower and comparing experiences at Clarion University, where Pascuzzi just completed his freshman redshirt season.

“I encouraged him to break any remaining records I had at Clarion and for Adam (Pascuzzi) to break his brother’s newly created ones at Eisenhower,” Witte said. “My advice is simple: don’t let anybody outwork you and have fun! “

Knowing John Pascuzzi, outworking him will be hard to do. Eisenhower coach Jim Penley briefly played football with Witte, who was a couple of years ahead of him in high school, and obviously coached Pascuzzi.

“The work ethic they both have is incredible,” said Penley.

Penley thinks Pascuzzi will be just fine at Clarion.

“Knowing John the way I do, he just wants to succeed,” said Penley. “Having played and coached college football, that’s the biggest difference; every one who goes to college is athletic, but you have to want to succeed.”

“I do know he is a very good athlete and, if his coach is making those statements about his work ethic and motivation, they are definitely qualities that will continue to separate him from others throughout his career,” said Witte. “It sounds like he has already been working hard following the strength and conditioning coach’s program they have established for him at Clarion, and he seems really focused on making an impact this upcoming year.”

Witte, who was inducted into the Clarion University Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 as the Division II university’s single-season record holder with 1,352 yards and the second all-time rusher with 2,850 yards in his college career, attended the school from 1992-96.

Pascuzzi likes the similarities to Witte – from the stats, to the team championships their team won, to the same college.

“I actually didn’t know he went to Clarion until I told Coach Penley that I was considering it,” said Pascuzzi. “Then he told me Witte also went there. I used it as a comparison. He excelled in his career at Clarion as he did at Eisenhower. I would love to try to echo him in the next level seeing as he has records in Clarion also.

“There is a big poster of him as soon as you walk into the coaches’ office on the left,” said Pascuzzi. “I look at it as motivation. It makes me want to work as hard as possible and break some records so then I could be up on that wall. Through my high school career I would stop and look at (his Eisenhower) plaque as motivation. The poster is my new motivation. “

Pascuzzi isn’t the only one hoping that motivation works out.

“Hopefully Johnny gets to see the same success Steve did at Clarion,” said Penley.

Pascuzzi isn’t getting ahead of himself, though.

“If anyone ever said that Steve and I were similar it would make me feel accomplished as a player and a person,” said Pascuzzi.