PLAYGROUND NOTES: His old desk is empty, his new team is second-rate, but I wonder: Who cares?

Kyle Tucker

Where in the World is Bobby Sippio?

It’s a game Western faithful will be playing for years. “What if .” and “If only .” will be the game’s catch phrases, along with “Remember when .”

As chalk meets blackboard again for the beginnings of fall classes and NFL training camps, Bobby Sippio can be found in neither.

He is, for all practical purposes, off the radar.

Sippio was one of 38 underclassmen who declared for the NFL draft after last season. Of those, 26 were selected in April.

Sippio was not. Seven rounds came and went. Two days, 261 names.

No Bobby Sippio.

Two Toppers, his defensive backfield mates, were selected. Joe Jefferson went in the third round to Indianapolis. Mel Mitchell was taken by the Saints in the fifth.

Sippio’s phone never rang.

It seems unimaginable that a guy who picked off a school-record 10 passes, ran two back for scores, deflected 27 passes and became the school’s first unanimous first-team All-American as a sophomore could fall so far.

Even in a disappointing junior season, in which his focus was clearly misplaced, he put up respectable numbers (38 tackles and five picks).

So where did he go? Where in the World is Bobby Sippio?

In his own world, best I can tell. But how did he get there? How did the once promising star fade?

Oddly enough, the NFL’s online draft site offered some prophetic insight even before the day the cheering stopped. In his draft profile, his obvious positives were listed.

These are the things Bobby thought meant more than anything else, the things that would make him a millionaire despite any other antics.

Tall. Great hands. Leaps well. Reliable tackler. Natural instincts.

All true. But it’s the negatives that caught my eye. They tell the story. Right there in black and white. They’re talking about football, obviously. But they speak almost as accurately about his pitfalls in life. They lay a framework, in football terms, for how the prolific pass-stopper and playmaker fell victim to his own predilection for punkdom. Pity, really.

“Lacks balance turning out of his backpedal.”

Yeah. Bobby lacks the ability to balance other-worldly ability with down-to-earth good sense. He prefers to make decisions that seem extraterrestrial.

Just before that stellar sophomore campaign, Sippio was suspended from the team for “attitude and conduct,” related to a series of mouthings and misconducts. Sippio later admitted that he “brought the situation on myself,” and that his “head got kind of big.”

Good thing he learned his lesson, huh? His career – or more accurately, his character – has been in a steady backpedal ever since.

“Has a tendency to lead with his shoulder before tackling, taking him off his feet a bit .”

Indeed. Talk about a guy whose head is in the clouds (insert drug-related joke here). Had he been grounded, he might have just run his way into millions. Instead, he left his feet and has flown into obscurity.

More on that later.

“His transition lacks fluidity.”

I’ll say. Here’s a guy, once an All-American, who in the time just prior to and immediately following his declaration for the NFL draft was arrested twice – once for receiving stolen property and later for possession of marijuana. Smooth he’s not.

The police report from his last arrest said that after Sippio was stopped for speeding, the officer approaching his car “could smell a strong odor of marijuana.” The officer then noticed Sippio trying quite conspicuously to remove a baggy from his pocket and hide it between the seats. His ride-along buddy, a minor, then goofed it and dropped the baggy in plain sight.

The officer concluded it was the green stuff – the dimes you puff, not the millions Bobby blew. And you know what they say:

If it looks like weed, and it smells like weed .

No, Bobby, light it up isn’t the way that one ends. Well, not for the guys who still have careers.

But I digress. The point is, off to jail he went – again.

Add that to his already shady past, and the pros only saw cons. Maybe if he were Quentin Jammer. But as a I-AA player, coming off a down year, jumping early, you don’t have that luxury. Definitely not a smooth transition.

And, in the section labeled “Career Notes,” you’ll find this laughable observation:

“. one of the best pass thieves in the nation.”

Yep, and if you need a parking pass, he’s not bad at nabbing those, either. His arrest for swiping a Western parking decal last November was just a pathetic note on his rap sheet. Months from being a millionaire and he needs a $60 tag?

It reads like a summary of his near-deceased career. His aptitude as a stopper had fame in his grasp. His ineptitude as a person tackled him short of the goal, forcing a fumble that he may never recover.

So Where in the World is Bobby Sippio?

Actually, if you’re interested, he’s located precisely at minus-84.81 degrees west longitude and 39.43 degrees north latitude. In short, he’s in Peoria, Ill.

Bobby Sippio, once a potential first- or second-round NFL draft pick, is playing for the Peoria Pirates of arenafootball2. He’s playing for peanuts, next to guys who bag groceries for extra income, in a league widely considered a last shot for those with long-shot dreams and a playground for several has-been’s and never-were’s.

Attempts to reach Bobby were unsuccessful. And while his team won the prestigious ArenaCup last week, he apparently wasn’t a major cog in the wheel. Only his name, now Robert Sippio (apparently sounds more law-abiding), appears on the roster. No stats are to be found. Still, those who remember how good he was ponder how good might yet be.

“If he just goes and keeps his nose clean, I think we’ll see him move up the ladder,” Western defensive coordinator David Elson said.

Sadly, though, I wonder: Who really cares? His mom and the rest of his unconditionally loving family does, I’m sure. But I don’t. Do you?

There are far too many talented athletes – ones who also happen to be good people – out there for me to waste my time rooting for one who’s willing to blow it all for a parking pass and a puff. And who’s too foolish to realize he has.

I don’t feel sorry for Bobby Sippio. He’s had second, third, fourth chances. He’s had things handed to him, I’m sure. All he had to do was be a star on the field and manage not to screw up off it, and he’d be rich today.

No, I don’t feel sorry for Bobby.

I feel sorry for anyone who counts on him.

Reach Kyle Tucker at [email protected]