Bear Pascoe catches a pass last season against Washington. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Shake hands with him and you get the feeling you are about to be swallowed up by the huge hands, the broad chest and shoulders, and the ever-present smile. Yes, fortunately, he's a gentle New York Giant -- off the field.
Meet Big Blue View favorite Bear Pascoe.
I had a chance to sit down with Pascoe recently during Giants Training Camp at the University at Albany. I mentioned to him his status as a 'cult hero' to some folks here at BBV, and that made him chuckle.Of course, that has everything to do with Pascoe's name. How can you not love a guy named 'Bear'?
"it gets you, it kinda draws you in. I've had that ever since I was a little kid, you know. As soon as I can remember everybody's been calling me 'Bear,' " Pascoe said. "It was just something I got from my mom and dad, I was always bigger than everybody else. Something that they gave me and it ended up sticking."
His parents actually named him McKenna Sean Pascoe. Thank goodness they saw the error of their ways. Here's a snippet from an article on SFGate.com in May 2009. It tells you a little about the nickname, and a lot about the man.
McKenna "didn't fit him like Bear did," mom Julie Pascoe said, recalling her nearly 10-pound baby boy. "He was just a big-old baby. Every time I picked him up, he'd be as heavy as a bear."
Thus, "Bear" Pascoe, a fortuitous handle that suits this rangy strip of beef jerky, at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds he's a virtual physical match to his old man, Sean Pascoe. Working cowboys both, father and son favor Wranglers, snap-button shirts and sweat-stained Resistol hats.
Talk to Pascoe, and the at-ease Cowboy nature is impossible to miss. Snapping his fingers while talking about picking up the offense more quickly this season, dropping phrases like "hard row" and "darn sure" during our chat, Pascoe doesn't put up a front and try to be something he's not.
Which makes him a great interview subject, and a hard guy not to like.
Pascoe was the subject of an extensive feature in Sunday's New York Times, something which even drew a sarcastic comment Monday from head coach Tom Coughlin.
"I saw that he was a star in the newspaper yesterday," Coughlin said.
More important to Coughlin and the Giants than Pascoe's sudden celebrity is the fact that the 6-foot-5, 251-pound second year player has been terrific during the early part of camp.
"He's a tough kid. You know he keeps coming right back," Coughlin said.
Pascoe played five games for the Giants at the end of last season, catching just one ball. He is known as a blocking tight end, but has consistenly shown throughout camp that he can catch the football. During Monday morning's practice he beat Antrel Rolle on a seam route and caught what likely would have been a touchdown pass from Eli Manning since there was no one between Pascoe and the end zone.
Of late, Pascoe has gotten more work with the first unit since starting tight end Kevin Boss is nursing his way back from ankle surgery and a sore hamstring. He has taken full advantage with nice catches at nearly every practice.
Catching the ball was not always easy for Pascoe, a converted high school quarterback, believe it or not.
"My first year at Fresno State I had a nickname, I was '10 Toes Pascoe,' I couldn't catch a cold. I took that whole off-season just working on catching. Came back the next year and caught 20 balls in a row."
"I can catch the ball just as good as I can block."
Presuming Boss will eventually be healthy, it is blocking that the Giants need first and foremost from a second tight end. Pascoe says it's a role he is willing to "embrace."
"I think that's something you embrace because that's what we do. We have a very strong run game. Kevin Boss is a great blocking tight end ... he's a great catcher, too.
"I'm not as good as Kevin, but I strive to be as good as Kevin.
"It's what we do ... you take what you're good at and you run with it. If they need me to be a great blocking tight end I'll be a great blocking tight end. If they ask me to catch the ball I'll darn sure be able to do that, too."
Pascoe feels as though he can help the Giants overcome a weakness in 2009 -- short-yardage and red zone offense.
"When you get down in that red zone the field gets shorter. You've gotta be able to get down in there and stick your nose in there and get physical and move some guys," Pascoe said. "I think it would be a big area where I can step in and help out."
Even though Pascoe spent part of last season with the Giants and has taken first-team reps during camp when Kevin Boss has not been in there, he says he is not taking a roster spot for granted. He was a sixth-round pick by San Francisco a season ago, and he knows the sting of not making a roster after having been released by the 49ers.
"You have to earn it. Me and Scott (Chandler) and Travis (Beckum) we're the ones running for it," Pascoe said. "We have to work for it and we have to earn it."
When it comes to blocking Pascoe said physical strength and desire -- both of which he has in droves -- are not enough to get the job done. He says you have to know what you're doing.
"If you've got the technique a little guy can block a big guy. It's not gonna be great, and it's gonna be a hard row, but you can probably get it done. Technique is the main thing. If you do things right and the technique is sound I say you can block anybody."
What is that technique?
"Firing out low, getting underneath a guy and lifting up instead of back. You get him off his feet you can take him anywhere you want to go," Pascoe said. "If you get your feet up underneath you and you lift that guy, you've got a solid base and he can't jerk you because you're gonna have him so close he can't do anything.
You do have to have that mental aspect. If you're scared to put your face in there then you ain't gonna get it done. You've definitely gotta have that 'want to' attitude."
Pascoe has been getting it done plenty for the Giants during the first part of camp.
Here is an old video I found of Pascoe from his days at Fresno State. I figured you guys would get a kick out of it.