Nobody likes George on game day. Not even Roseleen is inclined to put a question to him. "Please," he will respond, then retreat to a glower. Two years ago, when Virginia Tech played South Carolina, Jim's girlfriend, Pam Schucolsky, and a couple of friends were late arriving. As they filed to their seats, they heard some yahoo yelling and cussing at them. "Sit down you dingdongs!" he hollered. Pam turned. The yahoo was Jim's old man.
Sometimes George's larger-than-life behavior is not amusing. He can be meddlesome, criticizing his sons' coaches or campaigning on his sons' behalf. Virginia Tech administrators roll their eyes at the mention of his name. "A hard man," says one assistant coach. With good reason, according to George, who says he has had a hard life and is determined to see that his children don't have one. "It's hard being a father," he says. "Half of me is happy, half of me bleeds."
Jim admits that his father can be interfering. They have wrangled over George's desire to be involved in Jim's career and choice of an agent. "He's not always as nice as you'd like him to be," Jim says. "We've had our battles. But you have to understand he overcame a lot to get where he is."
George is much more interested in his sons' football careers than in recounting his own. Actually, none of the Pynes knew their father had played professionally until Jim and David came across pictures and memorabilia in the attic when they were in the seventh and eighth grades, respectively, and beginning to play Pop Warner football. "Basically, I didn't want them growing up in a shadow," George says. "They weren't going to be the sons of George Pyne."
And anyway, George wasn't exactly Gino Marchetti. His lengthier and far more productive career was as a businessman whose construction company at one point had 900 condominiums under contract and provided his family with vacation homes and boats in Cape Cod and Florida. In 1989, when the bottom fell out of the building industry and George's business as well, he started a company dealing in heavy machinery. Clearly he has been too busy to worry about where to hang his photos and trophies. "They just stayed in the box," George says.
Once his sons had discovered the remnants of his football career and had embraced the game themselves, George decided to take charge of their athletic development. He dragged his stuff down from the attic, took the kids to the backyard, strapped on the pads and snapped on his chin strap, got down in a stance and told them to hit him. From then on, George would conduct blocking and tackling drills in the yard, even in the dead of summer. "I figured if they could play against me," he says, "the other guys they faced wouldn't be a problem."
The neighbors no doubt thought the Pynes were crazy, a nearly 300-pound man down on his haunches while two 135-pound preteens threw themselves at him. Jim would launch himself at his dad and nothing would move. "You'd be driving with your legs, just digging a hole in the ground," he says.
George's mandate to achieve helped produce a family of athletes and honor students. Each of the four Pyne children went from Milford High to a year of postgraduate studies and athletic success at Choate prep school, before going on to college. The eldest, George IV, now 27, went to Brown, where he was the football team captain in 1988. He is a marketing executive in Atlanta, after finding that working with his father strained their relationship. Tara, 25, is a graduate of Providence College and works in the family business. David is a 3.0 student in business who will join the firm if his shot at the NFL fails. Jim carries a 3.3 average in business management.
The family was sold on Choate after George IV and his mother toured the campus and were shown where John F. Kennedy slept as a student. But attending school there, with the sons and daughters of the elite, was a revealing experience for the descendants of Massachusetts fishermen and laborers. "The high society, the snobs, I didn't fit in with," Jim says. "But it was strict and tough, and you found out who you were."
The Pynes' traditional proving ground has been the football field. George's father, George Pyne Jr., played at Holy Cross in the late 1920s and was known throughout the Blackstone Valley, in blue-collar towns like Milford and Uxbridge, as a local boy who made good. On Sundays he would assume an alias and go to Providence to play semipro ball. That's how, in 1931, he wound up playing tackle for the Providence Steam Roller.