A chance encounter

A Chance encounter 10 years ago in Buffalo has led to a lasting friendship between Silver Creek boys’ basketball coach Rob Genco and former Buffalo Bills’ and current Denver Broncos’ running backs coach Eric Studesville.

And last week, the two men were brought back together as part of a pact they had made some time ago.

“I said, ‘hey, let’s get to a Super Bowl together,'” Genco said. “And he said, ‘Rob, the only way I’m going to a Super Bowl, is if I’m coaching a team in the Super Bowl.'”

As luck would have it, Studesville’s Broncos defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game and earned a trip to face the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl

XLVIII, at MetLife Stadium, in New Jersey.

“When the Broncos won the AFC Championship game I got a text message that said, ‘pack your bags, I’ve got some Super Bowl tickets.’ And he asked if I needed any other ones, but I told him two tickets were good.

“So I got to go out and experience (the Super Bowl), not really as a fan, but as family,” Genco continued. “I got to go and stay with the Broncos where they were staying and in their facility and got to see the Super Bowl from the inside out. Which was pretty neat.”

Among the activities Genco, and his brother Chris – who tagged along for the ride – got to experience were riding the friends and family bus to and from the game, and meeting the Broncos’ players and coaches.

“Those guys at that level are just life coaches,” Genco said of the Broncos’ coaching staff, which includes head coach John Fox, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “And Eric, to me, is a life coach. And I pick his brain a lot when dealing with my young athletes, because we’re doing the same thing. He has 22-year-old kids and I have 18-year-old kids.”

There were other aspects that intrigued Genco as well.

“It was neat to see the athletes before the game and at dinners,” Genco noted. “And after the game, going to their post-game party with the team and being able to experience that.”

It wasn’t all fun and the biggest game of the year for Genco, he did try to take away a few lessons to help him become a better coach himself.

“What I liked about it was I was able to take that NFL experience and bring it back here and share it with my guys,” Genco said. “And try to help these guys get excited about what we do here.”

Genco, who served as an assistant coach under Sean Helmer during the football season, was also the head coach at Dunkirk for one year. And after taking a year off from coaching football, he wasn’t ready to start learning too many new tricks on the trip.

“We’re doing the same thing,” Genco said of what he thought the difference was between coaching football at the high school level and the professional level. “It’s just, as far as the game itself, it’s a lot faster. When you’re standing next to them and you see them moving and the size (of the players) and the speed … But as far as the way they prepared, if you’re doing it the right way in high school, (NFL players) aren’t doing it any different.”

The trip was more about spending time with a close friend and his family, than it was about watching a football game.

“I love Eric to death,” Genco said. “That’s my guy. I didn’t go there to pick anyone’s brain, just to spend time with him, because we don’t get to see each other that often. Just being able to spend time with him and be there for him after a tough loss was cool.”

And it was a tough loss for the Broncos, who fell to the Seahawks, 43-8, in a game that the Broncos seemed doomed from the start.

“He’s family,” Genco said. “(My son) knows him as family and his kids, it’s the same thing. I couldn’t really get into the game, because right from the first snap, it never got better. There was a nice halftime show and I couldn’t get into anything, because I wanted it so bad for (Eric).”

Having experienced his own heartbreak last season when his Black Knights fell to Pine Plains in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C boys basketball semifinals, Genco had a good idea of how to help his good friend through an agonizing defeat.

“I knew from losing last year in Glens Falls what to say to him and what not to say,” Genco said. “Because I knew what people said to me.

“What meant the most to me was being able to experience it with (Eric), with a dear friend,” Genco continued. “That meant the most to me, that he thought enough of me as a human being to invite me into that world and say, ‘hey, I know one of my friends, my buddy Rob, would love to be here with me.’ I’m just honored and blessed to know him and to be able to get that kind of life experience.”