Toward the end of practice Tuesday, some loud hecklers could be heard from the stands at Nippert Stadium. While that behavior really can't be policed since "The Nipp" is an open facility, most students/fans/sunbathers usually have the courtesy to just watch and eat their lunch at a reasonable volume.
In all honesty, the "lack of privacy" is one of the reasons somewhat secretive coaches desire private practice facilities like the one being constructed on Jefferson Avenue.
However, these weren't your average hecklers. They were noisy and specifically knew the players and numbers their verbal jabs were directed to. Fortunately, Coach Butch Jones knows he couldn't do much to them. In his regime, these guys are family.
Not that Butch Jones his welcoming any loudmouth in a pair of pants with a bullhorn. It's just these late practice harassers were former players Tony Pike and Craig Carey. They're probably fortunate that it was a Butch Jones practice since "the Irish predecessor" might have taken umbrage with being upstaged on his own field.
Instead, it was good-natured heckling that Pike and Carey were involved in as both hope to attract some NFL attention later in the week. Seeing as Tony Pike might feel lonely without another reporter asking him about his draft plans, I approached the Orange Bowl/Sugar Bowl/practice interrupter with such a query....
"It's hard with the draft being three days now," said Pike. "You know, they split the rounds up and you can go high or low. So, it's kind of hard. I think maybe golfing Thursday and Friday and I think we'll have a little family get together on Saturday. Just trying to stay busy and stay from being in front of the TV all day."
Then again, Pike could always pack in the Reading clan in the family RV that made it's way on many a road trip in Tony's playing days. That "urban assault vehicle" is equipped with all of the modern conveniences and probably has a satellite to pick up draft coverage from any network.
"Might as well," said Pike. "Just start driving."
It seems the goal for Tony Pike is distraction. Where the draft used to be a Saturday-Sunday affair, now it's Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So, depending on where you land, an athlete could be in line for three sleepless nights.
In Daytona, that might be fun. In Cincinnati, it can wear on you. Unfortunately, the NFL personnel folks don't give you a day and a time range like the plumber or the cable company does.
"Yeah, that would be a lot easier, but it's a nice three-day event so I'm sure the stress will be up there," said Pike.
You can understand, if you're Tony Pike. If this is three years ago, Tony Pike is waiting on a free agent call like his friend, Craig Carey. Or, he's watching the draft at Buffalo Wild Wings or any other venue with multiple TVs, cold beverages and nachos like the rest of us.
Perhaps his first phone call should go to Dustin Grutza. In the "from adversity comes opportunity"/Wally Pipp world of sports, if Grutza doesn't break a leg at Oklahoma in 2008, Tony Pike might not have had an opportunity to prove himself. Instead, in one of life's strange twists, Pike took over and later overcame his own injuries to lead UC to it's first ever BCS bowls.
Now, somewhere in every NFL "war room", there's information on Tony Pike.
"From just everything with the Combine, I've talked to every team," said Pike. "I've had workouts with probably 10 or 11 teams. I actually have one with Cleveland today. I'm staying busy up until the draft, so I'll have the day off (then)."
Pike with the Browns would be odd, especially for a native like Tony who grew up a Bengals fan is certainly not opposed (much like Mardy Gilyard) to playing at Paul Brown Stadium. As it is now, his college exposure has made him a recognizable figure by many in town.
"It's nice," admitted Pike. "I've grown up in the city, I love the city. To be able to help out and sign some autographs out at dinner, it's nice. It's nice to be recognized and then being a part at what happened here at Cincinnati the last two years is definitely a nice thing."
Thanks to Pike's efforts and a style of offense that's entertaining and effective, UC football is a national program. Recruits from USC and Tennessee have left to transfer HERE. Coaches have come and gone and styles have come and gone, and the program continues to improve. Not surprisingly, Pike is a fan of new Coach Butch Jones and his offensive philosophy.
"Just watching a little bit today, I got to see some--obviously, the practice speed is a lot faster," said Pike. "The way he cares about his players, the relationship he has with his players on and off the field--the players respect him on the field. From what I've heard off the field, he's a great guy to be around."
Come Saturday night, Tony Pike hopes to watch more Bearcat football as Bearcat Bowl IV takes place at 7 p.m. at Nippert Stadium. By then, he hopes to have a professional destination and he will have come a long way from being "that lanky dude holding the clipboard" looking for reps of his own in a spring game.
"Yeah, hope to," said Pike of his weekend plans. "It'll probably depend on whether anything's happened yet or not. I hope to get down here and watch the guys."
As we all watch, we can wonder what Bearcats in the coming years will hear their name announced on ESPN's draft show. There certainly are many more to come.