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Q&A with Pete Cronan: Football was ‘the first thing I did that people thought I was doing well’

Pete Cronan.Boston College

Pete Cronan was chosen as a linebacker on the Globe’s All-Time All-Scholastic football team. As part of the project, he discussed his football life with us. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: What are some of the lessons you learned playing Massachusetts high school football that you took with you throughout your career?

PC: One thing that sticks with me is that most of my life I was always told by adults about things I did wrong. There were very few things that I did right. So when I started playing football in particular, and I had some early success, it became the first thing I did that people thought I was doing well and I was encouraged to continue to do it. So that was kind of the genesis of my motivation around competitive sports, in particular football.


Q: You called the win against Texas in ‘76, your senior year at BC, “the greatest moment of my life” at the time. How do you look back on that game?

PC: When we opened up with them, it became our focal point. They had some real big name players. They had Earl Campbell, they had Raymond Clayborn, Russell Erxleben, Lam Jones. I mean, I remember the roster and that was 50 years ago, so it gives you a sense of how much they impressed me. Darrell Royal was the coach.

We ended up winning that football game and I believe it was divine intervention. They were trailing us by a point because they had gone for a two-point play and Kelly Elias, our defensive back, made a great play on the goal line to save the two point conversion. So now Texas had possession at around midfield as time was running out. We end up roughing the passer and the game cannot end on a defensive penalty. They mark off 15 yards and now we’re in Russell Erxleben’s range, he’s kicking 50 yards in pregame. We’re going to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory here because of a stupid penalty. My aunt and uncle are sitting in the stands with a Jesuit priest friend of theirs and as the ball left the kicker’s foot, the priest made the sign of the cross and blew and the ball went wide left, and we won the game.


Q: I read that you used to take potential BC recruits out to the Combat Zone when they visited. What do you remember about that?

PC: They would give us $20 to spend on the recruit. Times have changed. There was no NIL in those days. So, what would get us the biggest bang for our buck? Eighteen years old was the drinking age, so we’d have a couple of beers, get something to eat at Pino’s Pizza down in Cleveland Circle, take the train down to Washington Street, and spend whatever we had for money. That was our fastball.

We’d run into a lot of other guys recruiting from other schools in the same places. It wasn’t considered off limits and it was technically legal so we took advantage of it and got a couple of guys to make the decision to come to BC. We thought that was a great way to entice a young man to come to Boston.


Q: How’d you get into commentating for BC?

PC: My first offseason after retiring, I went to BC’s last spring practice and I realized it’s the first time for almost 20 years that I wasn’t going to a training camp. I felt this void and decided to walk up to the athletic director, Bill Flynn’s office, and say hello. We get to talking and I told him about my concerns. And he says, “Well, we’ve got this thing called cable TV coming in.” I say “What the heck is that?” He said, “They think they can charge people to watch sports on TV.” I said, “That’ll never work.” I was wrong. But anyway, he says, “We’re going to do football games and we’re going to put them in the can like Notre Dame does.”

They had programming voids, all week on NESN and so the idea was to condense the BC game into an hour so when they had these programming voids, they can just plug in the BC game for 60 minutes of content. So I go down to Fenway and talk to this guy Bobby Whitelaw at NESN. We had a 15 minute conversation and he said, “You sound knowledgeable, you can put syllables together. Would you like the job?” Whitelaw explained to me what it was and he told me what they were going to pay me. I said “Absolutely I’d like the job. Are you kidding me? You’re going to pay me to talk about football and go to games? Sign me up!”


So I did two years of that. Eric Reid was my play-by-play guy, who is now the voice of the Miami Heat. So right about that time the cable thing was kind of taking on water and that’s when Gino Cappelletti took the Patriots job. He had been doing the BC job with Gil Santos. Gil approached me about filling Gino’s seat. I said, “I’m game. Let’s go.”

Read more about the Globe’s all-time All-Scholastic team

Julian E.J. Sorapuru is a Development Fellow at the Globe and can be reached at Follow him @JulianSorapuru