JOHN KOVACH | Colleges Borghetti legacy: Ernie's ties to Pitt lead son E.J. there
PITTSBURGH -- E.J. Borghetti is following in his father's footsteps at the University of Pittsburgh.
But instead of playing football like his All-American dad, Dr. Ernest Borghetti Jr., E.J is promoting Pitt football off the field along with other Panthers' sports.
E.J. is now serving as the college's media relations director and an assistant athletic director in charge of media relations.
His father, an Ursuline High graduate and now a Liberty dentist who lives in Hubbard, is known as Ernie. He played football for five years at Pitt in the early 1960s.
The elder Borghetti's deep interest in Pitt led E.J. there as a student, and encouraged him to pursue his chosen field. Thus, the school has become a strong bond between father and son.
"Pitt has always been a major part of the family fabric," said E.J., who grew up in New Castle and graduated from Neshannock High in 1988, and now lives in Pittsburgh. While at Neshannock, he lettered in football and basketball.
"Some of my fondest family memories surround Pitt football and basketball games. My father's career here has helped me to become a fan.
"I don't look at this as work. I look at it as an incredible amount of fun, and it is gratifying to me."
Was Pitt star: E.J.'s father was an All-City lineman at Ursuline under coach Tom Carey, before winning a football scholarship to Pitt. There, he became a two-way tackle with the Panthers and a three-year lettermen from 1961-63. And as a senior in 1963, Ernie made All-American and led Pitt to a 9-1 record and a No. 3 national rankling under coach Johnny Michelosen.
Also in 1963, he was a No. 6 draft choice by the Cleveland Browns and a No. 21 pick by the Dallas Texans, who became the Kansas City Chiefs. He was with the Chiefs for one year in 1965, but suffered a knee injury and never played.
Led him to Pitt: E.J., who worked in Pitt's media relations during his last two years of college before graduating in 1992 with a major in communications, recalled how his father's career and advice led him to become a chip off the old Pitt block.
"I was 5 and wasn't familiar with my father's football background, [and] I found my father's scrapbook in my grandmother's closet.
"It showed me his press clippings of Ursuline and Pitt and the Kansas City Chiefs, and that opened up a whole new world for me, and that's where my passion for Pitt originated," E.J. said.
"And about a year later, he began to take me to games at Pitt, and it has been an indelible part of my life for 25 years."
Fatherly advice: E.J. also recalled his senior year at Pitt when his father's advice again changed the course of his life.
"The middle of my senior year, I was thinking about [attending] law school, but once again my father played a vital role in what direction I would take," remembered E.J. "He said 99 percent of people going to work would like to be somewhere else. Also, if you enjoy what you are doing, it makes your job more pleasant.
"After that conversation, I decided to pursue college athletics as a career, and with the hope of getting to promote [Pitt's] cause."
E.J.'s first job out of Pitt was as an assistant sports information director at Columbia University in New York City from 1992-94.
He went on to become sports information director at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh from 1995-97, before shifting to Pitt where he continued to build his interest in Pitt with his father.
Family topic: "Since 1976, If I were calling home from college, there was hardly a time that would go by when we didn't talk about Pitt football. It was part of the atmosphere, and being able to be here as a professional, and the fact that the program is undergoing a revival, make it all the more gratifying," said E.J.
Although the older Borghetti is a Pitt season-ticket holder in football, E.J. rarely sees him during the games. But they still talk.
"Because I'm so busy during the game, before and after, I usually give him a call to his cell phone as he is driving home," said E.J., whose mother, Susan Henderson, also lives in Pittsburgh.