When Robert Francis (Bo) Barzilauskas reported to Indiana freshman practice on Aug. 9, he had an advantage over the other rookies: He had already been through boot camp. After that experience Barzilauskas, a 6'5", 288-pound defensive tackle, could survive anything.
A year ago his father, Carl, who also played defensive tackle for the Hoosiers—and later for the New York Jets and the Green Bay Packers—acted as Bo's drill sergeant while conducting football training sessions for a dozen or so high school players on the 60-acre family property outside Bloomington, Ind.
The 11 weeks of training, which took place for three hours, live nights a week, included drills of digging trenches, climbing ropes, flipping railroad ties, carrying a 200-pound log two miles through the woods and dragging a 300-pound Chevrolet engine block down a gravel path. At the beginning of the training, in late May, Bo could pull the engine 36 feet. By the end, in early August, he could pull it more than 700.
Bo made much of his progress during a rigorous four-day, sunrise-to-sunset boot camp that Carl held for Bo and three of his high school teammates in the midst of the 11 weeks of training. During those four days the drills were intensified, and the grueling workouts made for hungry campers. Cathi Barzilauskas, Bo's stepmother, played mess sergeant and estimates that she cooked 15 pounds of meat and 10 pounds of potatoes nightly. "Then they would turn out the lights in the den, and each one of them, including Carl, would collapse on the floor and immediately fall asleep," says Cathi.
August 28, 1994
Upon their discharge from the camp, Bo and his three teammates each received an Indiana T-shirt and a silver dollar from Carl as a symbol of their strength and commitment. During his senior year at Cheshire (Conn.) Academy in 1969, Carl took part in a similar camp run by a coach who claimed to have been a Marine drill instructor for 25 years, "I wanted to do the kind of training Dad did when he was a player," says Bo. "The camp seemed like a good idea at the time, but about halfway through I was regretting it. It was a lot different from being in the gym. It's grueling being outside in the heat, digging holes."
Last winter, with boot camp behind him, Bo began training in hand-to-hand combat. He started boxing at a local gym to improve his agility and hand speed. His only official fight was in the subnovice super heavyweight division of the state Golden Gloves. He KO'd his opponent in 77 seconds, though Bo claims he could have finished him off sooner. But any chance of Bo's choosing boxing over football was dashed by Carl, who thought football was safer.
Because Bo grew up only 10 miles from the Indiana campus, Hoosier coach Bill Mallory could keep an eye on him as he developed. However, the credit for discovering Bo belongs to Mallory's son Curt, who, as a linebacker at Bloomington South High, helped coach the Batchelor Middle School team. "Curt came home one night after working with the kids and said, 'There's a young man you're going to be interested in. You're going to want him,' " recalls Mallory senior. "The next year Bo came to my camp. He was quite a specimen, even in junior high."
Now, after six summers under the tutelage of the two Mallorys, Barzilauskas will attend his dad's alma mater and wear his number, 77. Bo will have something else to remind him of his father. He'll be carrying a silver dollar in his pocket.