FRISCO, Texas — Some came by plane. Others made the trip in a car. At least one traveled by pickup truck. They would have come by skateboard if need be.
It wasn’t an official Segobiano family reunion Saturday at Toyota Stadium. It just seemed that way.
A total of 31 family members were on hand for the Football Championship Series National Championship game — 32 if you count Illinois State senior All-American long snapper Chris Highland.
He was the reason they were here. Son of Dan and Pam Highland of Normal, he is a grandson of Paul and Barb Segobiano of Bloomington. Paul Segobiano sprung for red cowboy hats for all the females in the family with an ISU logo on the front and Chris Highland’s No. 96 on the back.
They wore them proudly for the first national title game appearance in ISU football history.
The only down side was that Barb Segobiano was unable to travel because of a recent bout with pneumonia. She was back in Bloomington at a watch party hosted by her daughter in-law, Cindy Segobiano.
"The rest of us are all here, and we know Mom is here in spirit,” Pam Highland said. “Mom has a front row seat with her red hat on (in front of the TV). I just talked to her and she said, 'I put my red hat on this morning and I'm ready to go.’
“It’s overwhelming and it’s extremely emotional. It’s been quite a ride.”
It was no surprise so many Segobianos jumped on board. Paul and Barb Segobiano started the Bloomington Knockers youth football program 58 years ago. They turned control of it over to son, Mark, and grandson, Brian, after this past season.
Football is not just a sport to them … to any of them.
"It’s a football family,” Dan Highland said. “Playing baseball and softball and coaching other sports is one thing, but that old saying there are two seasons — football and the rest of the year — that tends to run with our group.”
"We live, die and breathe football,” Pam Highland said. “That was Mom’s thing. She made the comment, ‘Sure, we do family events together … weddings, birthdays, anniversaries. But there’s nothing like getting this far in a football atmosphere.’
“That’s the Segos … we are all about football. I think that’s what’s so hard for her (not being in Frisco).
The Segobianos were out in force in 2007 and 2008 when Chris Highland played in state championship games for Central Catholic High School. The Saints took second in 2007 and won the title in 2008.
That meant traveling an hour to Champaign. This was much farther, but when it comes to family and football, no distance is too far.
"To see a young man like Christopher rise to the occasion ... he truly is a student athlete,” Paul Segobiano said. “The family has always been together and this is the climax. It's an exciting time for our family.”
Paul Segobiano said it has been “depressing” for his wife to have to stay in Bloomington, but added, “We'll take our memories back for her."