I first met Chaparral tight end Christian Skeptaris in the preseason when I was doing a story on Kevin Groeger. Skeptaris and fellow senior Derek Porambo helped add their friend to the Firebirds roster, and after sitting down with him for five minutes, I walked away thinking “Man, he kind of reminds me of Rob Gronkowski”.
Apparently others, including Skeptaris himself, share that sentiment. A few weeks later, I ran into the UC Davis commit while he was sporting his Birdcage shirt with “Baby Gronk” across the back, an homage to his favorite player and, according to many, his doppleganger.
On the field, it’s easy to see why. He is a huge target for quarterback Grayson Barry and never shies away from contact, often dragging defenders with him as he eats up chunks of the field with each reception.
“Skippy”, as his teammates affectionately call him, not only has the build, but the bravado of “Gronk” as well.
To keep it simple: He is goofy. He loves trying to make his teammates and coaches laugh during pregame and practice. If you want to see the Firebird who has the most fun on the field, look for the guy sporting the #88 jersey and frosted tips, a fashion statement he mades for Chaparral’s playoff run.
And he doesn’t know any other way.
“It’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun,” Skeptaris said. “You’re not supposed to be stressing over it. You grow up in Pop Warner and all of it is about fun. That’s how it should be, and that’s how it should be played. That’s how I play it.”
His head coach, Conrad Hamilton, described him as “loosey goosey”, sometimes even a little too loose, but once the lights come on and the senior captain goes out for the coin toss, it’s time go around, over, and through his defenders.
“He’s a good all-around player. Normally, they say a tight end should be a quarterback’s best friend, a kinda of ‘security blanket’ type of dude,” Hamilton said. “He offers a lot to us; he offers leadership from a senior standpoint. He’s a scholarship player for us, a three-year starter. He brings a lot of intangibles to the game with his experience and, of course, his skill-set.”
Baby Gronk’s approach to the game is simple: if the ball comes his way, make the catch. If it goes to one of the other Chaparral playmakers, pave the way and put some defenders on their butts in the process.
“I’m just like every other guy,” Skeptaris said. “I’m supposed to make plays when my number is called. And when it’s not, I have to block for my team like everyone else.”
Expect Skeptaris to do exactly that in the Firebirds’ quarterfinal game against Desert Ridge Friday night.
And also expect him to have a lot of fun while doing it.