Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 | 2 a.m.
This is one of the reasons Ron Scoggins Jr. decided to stay at home and play college football at UNLV.
When the Rebels’ sophomore offensive lineman left practice Tuesday at Rebel Park, a familiar face greeted him.
His father, Ron Scoggins Sr., visited the late-morning practice, making sure to stay until the end to offer his son some words of encouragement.
Scoggins Sr. was part of UNLV’s 1984 California Bowl championship team, so father and son will enter the program’s record book Jan. 1 when the Rebels play North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. They are believed to be the first father-son duo to play in bowl games in program history.
“This is great. It’s an honor to see your son playing at the same school you played at,” Scoggins Sr. said. “Now, after what, I was here 30 years ago, they are going to a bowl and he helped them get there. It’s good to see them playing on New’s Year Day. That’s big-time.”
When Scoggins Jr. was selecting a college in 2012, he didn’t have to look far to get a UNLV endorsement — his dad constantly reminded him to not forget his hometown university. He was a three-star recruiting prospect out of local power Bishop Gorman and had scholarship offers from Fresno State, New Mexico and San Jose State.
He initially committed to New Mexico but switched his pledge the night before signing day after some soul searching. Having the chance to play in front of his father, younger brother and sister outweighed the positives of other schools.
“Having the support from my dad and brother is the best,” he said. “Every time I go out there, I know I have to do my best because they are watching.”
He wanted to be part of one of those memorable UNLV teams like his father’s. Growing up, he often heard stories or met teammates of his father, feeling that Rebel pride from an early age. He affectionately calls some of his dad’s former teammates "uncle."
Now, whenever he runs into those former players, he’s flooded with support — that includes from Randall Cunningham, the school’s all-time best player who is the pastor at the church the Scogginses attend.
Scoggins Jr. is one of the few links from the past to the present. The 1984 team was arguably the best in school history; this year’s team is first to reach a bowl in 13 seasons.
“This is the best feeling ever,” the younger Scoggins said. “Jan. 1. Who else is playing on Jan. 1? We turned the program around. We went 2-11 last year but came out this year and went 7-5, looking to be 8-5.”
When Scoggins Jr. first started playing football, years before he would enter high school or have to pick a college, his first coach gave him a valuable lesson. That coach was his dad. The 6-foot-6 Scoggins Sr. played three games with the Seattle Seahawks after two seasons at offensive tackle for UNLV.
All three of the Scoggins children are elite athletes. His younger brother, Ryan, is a ninth-grader at Gorman and could be the next in the family with the Rebels. His sister, Sierra, is a freshman volleyball player at Clark Atlanta University. All three received the same advice.
“He mostly taught me to have fun out there and to treat (football) like a game and nothing more than that,” said Scoggins Jr., a 6-foot-3, 335-pound guard who has been a starter for most of his two seasons at UNLV. “At the end of the day, it’s a game and you have to enjoy what you are doing.”
Whether it was his daughter’s volleyball practices when she played at Gorman or his younger son’s football workouts, Scoggins Sr. is typically in the stands or peaking through the stadium fence. After all, that’s somewhat of a family tradition.
Scoggins Sr. has three older brothers and two younger sisters, most of whom were standout athletes growing up in Inglewood, Calif. When his older brother, Eric Scoggins, played at USC, their father, Don Scoggins, made the short drive for daily practices.
“Like my dad, this is really a relaxation period for me to come watch my son practice. It’s a blessing to be out here watching him,” Scoggins Sr. said.
Eric Scoggins was a standout linebacker on USC’s 1978 national championship team and played for the San Francisco 49ers, Scoggins Jr.’s favorite team. When Eric Scoggins died in 2009 from Lou Gehrig’s disease, it hit Ron Jr. the hardest — he idolized his uncle and continues to play in his honor. During the 2010 high school state championship game, he wrote "RIP Uncle Eric" on the athletic tape surrounding his gloves.
After Gorman won the title that afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium, he took pictures with family on the field. Later, he proudly snapped a picture of those gloves. He’d love nothing more than to add another photo to the family’s album Jan. 1 in Dallas, giving his first coach a congratulatory hug after winning a bowl game.
“It’s great for that family. I’m real happy for Ron,” UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said. “I wish we had a few more families like that, some more of those legacy stories out here.”