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NY Times Bear Pascoe Article

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ALBANY — Bear Pascoe has visited Manhattan for dinner and to attend Broadway musicals like “The Lion King.” But he usually opts to stay away from the bright lights of the big city.


“Where I grew up, there was hardly any people, so being around a lot of people can be kind of claustrophobic,” said Pascoe, a reserve tight end for the Giants.


Pascoe grew up on a cattle ranch in California with more acres than many New Yorkers have square feet. There he learned how to lasso cattle and eventually became an accomplished roper in amateur rodeo events.


He still wears big belt buckles with jeans and speaks with a folksy twang, littering sentences with words like “shoot.” But the closest thing he has to wide-open space is a football field.


“Where I grew up, shoot, we were three miles off the paved road,” Pascoe said. “When people say they grew up in a hole, I literally grew up in a hole. There’s mountains all around us.”


The Giants know about Pascoe’s talent off the field. In fact, in a special-teams meeting last year, the coach Tom Quinn projected a photograph of him swinging a lasso while on horseback. But the Giants, who signed Pascoe in December from the practice squad, are still learning about his ability with a helmet and pads on.


The starter, Kevin Boss, has been limited while recovering from off-season ankle surgery, and Pascoe has played a number of snaps with the first team as a result. At 6 feet 5 inches and 251 pounds, Pascoe is useful mostly for his big body. The Giants hope that he can take some blocking responsibilities away from Boss and the backup Travis Beckum, allowing them to catch passes.


“He’s a tough guy, kind of a throwback,” Mike Pope, the tight ends’ coach, said of Pascoe. “He’s a rodeo-cowboy-type guy.”


Pascoe grew up on a large plot near Porterville, Calif. For more than 100 years, the Pascoes have been ranchers by trade, rodeo cowboys by hobby.


The Pascoes often wake by 4 a.m. for tasks like repairing fences or branding cattle, and they have lived on ranches more than 45 minutes from the nearest town. They are also at the mercy of the weather, affected by rainfall and changes of the seasons.


The family currently lives on a ranch with an orange grove and a pasture. They have 12 horses, roughly 300 cattle and acre after acre of untouched land.


“It’s more of a way of life,” Pascoe’s father, Sean, said in a telephone interview. “I think the riches of it are in the lifestyle you lead; you’re not stuck in an office from morning till night. We’re out every day, working and not having to contend with the congestion of cities and things like that. It’s just a good way of life, I think.”


Bear Pascoe loved the early mornings and manual labor. He embraced the rhythm of the lifestyle.


Each spring, the family members would travel on horseback and drive their cattle to the high country, plodding along a 15-mile trip that took two days. They would stay there all summer in a cabin with a generator for the lights and a radio that played George Strait. There was no television. In the fall, they would drive the herd back to the low country.


For fun, they played rodeo games. The family has a roping arena, roughly the size of a football field, where the Pascoe children, three of them, practiced heading and heeling — bringing a steer to the ground by roping its head and its hind legs — for hours at a time.


In an event known as team roping, one header and one heeler work together to rope a calf while on horseback. By age 15, Pascoe won a pickup truck in a competition; its odometer is approaching 200,000 miles after all these years on the family’s ranch. He has a handful of belt buckles and horse saddles as proof of the events he has won.


Pascoe is a header, which requires good hand-eye coordination and a certain sense of timing. He and his siblings refined their skills by lassoing their dog, Scud, who soon became skittish around the ropes, or by snaring their parents’ legs as they walked through the house.


“Shoot, if it walked, we’d rope it,” Pascoe said.


Football is also in the Pascoes’ blood. Sean Pascoe played at Colorado State in the mid-1970s.


As his nickname might indicate, Bear Pascoe was born with a body for the sport. His given name is McKenna Sean Pascoe, but his birth weight (10 pounds) earned him his nickname.


Pascoe was a quarterback in high school, but he moved to tight end at Fresno State after a number of players at that position graduated. He was a two-time all-Western Athletic Conference selection.


“He understood what work was all about,” Fresno State Coach Pat Hill said in a telephone interview. “And that carried over into his life as a football player.”


Last spring, the San Francisco 49ers drafted Pascoe in the sixth round, but he was cut in September because he had difficulty catching up to the speed of the N.F.L. The Giants picked him up to join the practice squad, and he appeared in four games after they activated him in December.


Last year, Pascoe lived in an extended-stay hotel in East Rutherford, N.J. If things go well with the Giants, he is hoping to be able to look for a more permanent residence in the area.


But the possible move toward New York has not taken the cowboy out of Pascoe. Indeed, the ringer on his cellphone is a country song, by Uncle Kracker and Kid Rock.


The title? “Good to Be Me.”



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