THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo
When the second quarter ends and teammates make the trek to their locker room, Central Catholic High School football players Bill Gergich and Thomas Dysard take a different route.
They head over to the sideline and pick up their instruments.
Gergich and Dysard are more than just members of the Fighting Irish varsity football team. They are also members of the Central Catholic band.
"I think it's a great thing for our school and for the kids," Central Catholic band director Bill Hayes said.
"It gives both groups a sense of camaraderie for each other. The fact we allow them to do both is a great thing."
For the band members who sport shoulder pads and spandex pants at intermission, they wouldn't have it any other way.
"I like playing music and I like playing football," said Gergich, a junior lineman for the team and trombone player at halftime.
"I think it's a great experience because you go from football, which is crunch time and always being on top of things, to band, which is a lot more relaxed," added Dysard, a sophomore lineman for the Fighting Irish and a trumpet player for the Marching Irish.
Gergich was the lone double-duty performer on Friday nights for his first two years at Central Catholic until Dysard joined him this season.
The two share a support system, backing up each other whenever someone questions why they do both or just serving as a buddy to walk from band practice to the football field after school.
To do both, there are concessions that need to be made.
Gergich and Dysard are excused from the halftime locker room speech from coach Greg Dempsey every Friday night.
In return, they are allowed to miss after-school band rehearsal Monday and Wednesday nights to attend varsity football practice.
"I'm just as proud of the adults in those situations as the kids," Central Catholic athletic director Bill Axe said.
"We get a lot of mileage out of our athletes participating in multiple sports and activities in the fall," he said.
"We always make the effort to allow kids to do both, and it shows the different coaches and fine arts directors being able to work together to give the kids the best of both worlds."
Gergich, of Holland, first had the idea to do both in grade school at the urging of Lee Morrison, his band director at St. Joan of Arc grade school in South Toledo.
"He was pushing me to go into it," Gergich said. "I told him I probably wasn't going to do it. But I entered my freshman year, and I thought I might as well continue with it."
For Dysard, of the Old West End, it was a family member that led him into music.
"My Uncle Skip gave me his trumpet, and I just wanted to do something with it," said Dysard, who also plays guitar in his free time.
"Last year, I took the beginning band course just so I knew what I was doing and didn't look like a complete fool this year," he said.
"This year I joined them on the field because I've always wanted to be in the marching band and I do love football a lot, so this way I get to do both," he said.
The overall reaction to the duo has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Mr. Hayes, the band director, but that doesn't mean that they don't take a little bit of ribbing from their teammates.
"There's a couple guys [who] will give me some grief," Gergich said, smiling. "Some people can't imagine why I would do both," he added, "and then there's some people [who] think it's kind of cool."
Contact Zach Silka at firstname.lastname@example.org.