This season will be much easier for Barbara and Jim Gulyas when it comes to coordinating their football travels. After all, they only have one child to follow.
The couple’s youngest son, Jeff, has the limelight to himself. The redshirt junior tight end at Shippensburg is the last of three brothers to play collegiately.
Kevin, a receiver who had 18 career touchdown receptions at Villanova, completed his eligibility last season and graduated in the spring. Scott was also a receiver and played a couple of seasons at Johns Hopkins, where he graduated in 2012. The oldest son, Bryan, did not play collegiately, but was the first one to put on the pads and helmet at Allentown (Pa.) Central Catholic, where all four boys attended.
Through it all Barbara dished the motherly advice while cheering on her sons. She also noticed how the football experience has served as an important part of her sons’ lives, not just the games, but how the sport helped them develop as individuals.
“I told the boys you work hard on the football field and you work really hard in the classroom because you need a good education,” said Barbara, whose daughter Pam, also went to ACCHS before playing volleyball at Villanova from 2006-09. “One thing I have noticed is how much they love their teammates and how they will do anything for them. They are always there for each other with support and encouragement. You also learn how to manage your time, which is important.”
Barbara’s support and encouragement have been important to Jeff, who played on the defensive line at Shippensburg before moving to receiver.
“She has always given advice as far as trying your best and if you work hard good things will happen,” he said. “She has always sacrificed her time driving us to practice and going to our games. In high school she helped out with dinners the nights before games and also with pregame meals.”
It was almost automatic Jeff was going to play football. After all, with his brothers involved with the sport and Jim having played collegiately at Kentucky it only seemed like the natural thing to do.
“Ever since I can remember I played football,” he said. “Having older brothers that played kind of pushed me in that direction and I have loved it ever since.”
There have been many highlights for Barbara. Seeing Scott in a Johns Hopkins uniform for the first time, Kevin catching the game-winning touchdown on Villanova’s Senior Day with 41 seconds left against Richmond last season, and Jeff contributing on both sides of the ball in his first two seasons as an active player at Shippensburg are just a few.
“It has been a really good experience for us as parents, and the boys as well,” said Barbara, who is not a football mom that can be heard several sections away, but rather soaks in the atmosphere while keeping an eye on her sons. “There has been a lot to keep track of, but it has always been enjoyable.”
The football travel itinerary this season will be limited to Shippensburg’s home and away games, with the Raiders’ September 3 opener at American International having long been circled on the family calendar. Barb and Jim will be able to do something they have not been able to the past three years: travel to games together.
Things were easy to figure out when Scott was at Johns Hopkins. Barbara and Jim would attend Kevin and Jeff’s high school games on Friday nights before heading down to Maryland or to wherever the Blue Jays were playing on Saturday.
It was not that easy when Kevin and Jeff were in college. While there were a few instances when Shippensburg had a day game and Villanova had a night game allowing the parents to catch both, most Saturday’s since Jeff arrived at Shippensburg as a redshirt in 2013 saw one parent go in one direction and the other parent go another. How they decided who would go where was pretty simple.
“My husband always went the furthest,” said Barbara, laughing. “A couple of times when I went on the longer trip I would say to a couple of my girlfriends, ‘Come on, let’s make a weekend of it.’ But my poor husband got the brunt of the travel. It all worked out, though, to where we saw about the same number of each of the boys’ games.”
With Jeff the only football-playing brother this season Barbara will have to make only one phone call. Typically each game-day morning she would call each son that was playing and leave a message of good luck.
“She has always called to wish me well,” said Jeff. “When the games are over she is happy to see that I was not injured and gives me a hug.”
Jeff will have all the hugs to himself this season.