To those who see Thanksgiving as the perfect blend of football and family:
You're going to like the Robacks.
Start at the top with Jim Roback, offensive coordinator of Coon Rapids' 1983 Class AA state champion.
Next meet Jim's son Pete, defensive back on Anoka's Class AA champion of 1990.
Now get to know Pete's son Dane, junior wide receiver for Rosemount, undefeated and set to play Maple Grove in the Class 6A Prep Bowl on Dec. 2.
When Dane and his teammates charge from a tunnel onto the field at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Roback family will send its third generation into Prep Bowl history.
The year 2022 presents one complication: The Prep Bowl schedule, now Prep Bowl tradition, had Jim and Pete playing for championships on the day after Thanksgiving. This year's break from tradition, driven by the Vikings' plan to use U.S. Bank Stadium on Thanksgiving, has Dane waiting a week.
"Family and football" Thanksgiving thinking still works for this football family.
"It feels like the Super Bowl with that week off," Dane said. "Now Thanksgiving can be just dedicated to family."
Jim Roback's Prep Bowl
Jim Roback, 82, served as an assistant coach at Coon Rapids for 28 years. He coached at Anoka for eight years.
He reached the Prep Bowl that one time. He recalls it the way coaches do:
"We ran the first play, fumbled, Bloomington Jefferson scored, and we tried to block the extra point and our best defensive player separated his shoulder.
"Somehow we got 34 points anyway."
Bloomington Jefferson scored 31.
Jim Roback achieved much more in athletics, making Augsburg's Hall of Fame after playing baseball and football and participating in track and field. He played a season of minor league baseball in the Twins organization, accumulating 110 plate appearances — and one home run, in his first professional at-bat — as an outfielder for Bismarck-Mandan of the Northern League in 1962.
He counts that Prep Bowl, the second one after the state finals moved into the Metrodome in 1982, as precious.
"When I go back to my high school reunions, it's still football we talk about," said Jim, who lives in Champlin with his wife of 59 years, Pat. "It was all something that was so special."
Grandpa is fired up about grandson Dane's opportunity.
"It's just a wonderful feeling," he said. "Dane is going to have this feeling, and he's going to love it."
Pete Roback's Prep Bowl
Pete Roback, 50, has more than one reason to root during the 2022 Prep Bowl. He's principal of Rosemount High School and also a former Rosemount assistant coach, for 15 years.
He also has more than one Prep Bowl story. In 1983 he served as ball boy — and more — for his dad's team. Trouble is, when he arrived at the Metrodome, he learned the Minnesota State High School League had someone to handle that. He lacked access to the sideline. That meant his dad lacked a service fifth-grade Pete provided during games, following the ball and relaying yardage matters to the coaches.
"I was just crushed," Pete said. "Someone eventually gave me a sideline pass, and I was able to make my way down."
Memories of the 1990 Prep Bowl are written in the record book. Pete made three interceptions in Anoka's 19-14 victory over Elk River, setting a record equaled six times since. He went on to play football and baseball at Augustana, where he was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2011.
Now he's father of a player and principal of a school headed to the Prep Bowl. Dane didn't play in the state semifinal. Dad didn't fret.
"He just loves being part of the team, and Jeff Erdmann has built such a positive program that any member of the team feels valued," he said, referring to the team's coach.
Dane Roback's pending Prep Bowl
Rosemount didn't cut back on passing in its 14-10 victory over Eden Prairie in the state semifinals. The Irish eliminated it. They threw no passes.
No matter. The work of Dane Roback, wide receiver on a team that rarely passes, was already done. It showed when the Irish defense limited Eden Prairie to eight pass completions in 18 tries.
Dane helped the defense stop those plays as a member of the scout team. In practice he is assigned to mimic an opposing receiver, to run the opponent's plays. He is certain of his importance, positive he is contributing to the push for a state championship.
"We've prepared our team to be the best defense in the state of Minnesota," he said.
Dane, also a baseball player, savors the teamwork angle of football.
"It's truly the most team sport," he said. "Football is truly the only sport you play for your town. You can't go off to play club.
"The major thing is to run into that stadium with all these guys who worked their tails off with you."
Dane will turn 17 the day the Irish play for the Class 6A title. Happy birthday indeed.
"Hopefully we can get it done that day," he said.
Like Grandpa and Dad did.
"It's a really cool accomplishment," he said. "Dad and Grandpa were just so successful in high school. It's a lot to follow up on."