In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sunday in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Maureen Fulton talked with Vince Palko, a two-time Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year for Bowling Green State University.
Preparing to play was half the fun for Vince Palko. Palko, a four-year starter for Bowling Green State University at linebacker in the early 1990s, took as much pride in his early morning workouts and off-season regimens as he did in a sack or an interception.
He's now putting his passion for training to work, helping others achieve fitness goals.
A member of the Falcons' last two Mid-American Conference championship teams, Palko was inducted into BGSU's Hall of Fame last month.
He recorded 478 tackles in his career, a school record that still stands.
From Stow, Ohio, Palko played his high school ball at St. Vincent-St. Mary. He came to BGSU in 1990 and redshirted his first season. As a redshirt freshman in the team's first year under coach Gary Blackney, Palko was second on the team with 99 tackles. BGSU won 10 straight games in 1991, including the California Raisin Bowl over Fresno State.
He had 119 tackles his sophomore year, when the Falcons won nine straight games to finish the season, including the Las Vegas Bowl over Nevada. BGSU won back-to-back MAC Championships for the first time since 1964-65.
In 1993, Palko's junior year, he was the team MVP and won his first MAC defensive player of the year award. He had 141 tackles and a league-leading 19 tackles for loss. The Falcons beat the University of Toledo, 17-10, for the third year in a row. They ended the season with a loss to Central Michigan and a tie with Western Michigan to finish 6-3-2.
In 1994, BGSU went 9-2, and Palko was named MAC defensive player of the year again. He made 120 tackles and was on the Butkus Award watch list. Palko also made the Academic All-MAC first team his junior and senior years.
After college, Palko played three years for the Hamburg Blue Devils in Germany. The Blue Devils won the German Bowl championship and two Euro Bowl championships.
Palko is the author of Linebacker Fitness. His Web site, www.vincepalko.com, features programs to help readers achieve fitness goals.
Palko lives in Sylvania with his wife, Cheri, and their three daughters.
"BGSU WAS AMONG MANY SCHOOLS that were recruiting me in high school. I went to BG on a visit and liked the school. They were building a $9.9 million art facility. It seemed like a good fit and turned out a great fit. The school was a good foundation for my art career."
"[COACH MOE ANKNEY] was there my first year as a redshirt. Then Coach Blackney came the year that I started playing. I came from a school where there was a coaching legend; he had been there for 60 years. At Bowling Green, I could tell that Moe didn't really have the respect of his players. As soon as Coach Blackney came in it seemed like everything changed. The seniors stepped up and really took a good leadership position on the team. Everyone was really motivated by Coach Blackney and his staff. I never had a losing season; we were always top notch. I'd hate to play for those coaches if we ever had a losing season, because they were so challenging."
"MY FAVORITE MEMORIES are of training with my roommates at 5 a.m. knowing everyone else is tucked in their beds, snoozing away. We were trying to make ourselves better, become a championship team. My favorite game memory was playing against Toledo. They were driving on us; it was a hard-fought game. They tried to run the ball three times on our 1-yard line. Then on fourth down, we stuffed Casey McBeth on the 1-inch line. That single play right there changed the momentum of the game, and we won 10-9. I take pride I never lost to those guys up on 75 North."
"I ALWAYS HAD A GOAL to play on the next level. It was great because I could see the world. I could expand beyond my little small-town horizons. I could go out and see everything I learned in art history class on a slide projector. I would go and explore different museums."
"AFTER MY FOOTBALL CAREER I transitioned into endurance sports, triathlons, and marathons. What I do now to help people, it's strength training, it's endurance work, it's mental visualization. I create actual visualizations to help people achieve their goals, using all the fitness knowledge I've gained over the years."
"WHEN I WAS INDUCTED there was a huge turnout of former players. For me, standing up and accepting the award, I was so grateful just to see people I haven't seen in a long time. There were a lot of guys I had fallen out of touch with, and that meant a lot. They said to me, 'You know what Vinny, I wouldn't miss it for the world.'•"44.94351 -86.41843