The furthest Chuck has traveled for a game is Bloomington, Ind., where Mike was a graduate assistant from 2003-04. But he didn't make it to many Hoosier contests, because Pat was diagnosed with lung cancer during that time. She died in April of 2004.
Chuck has clearly shown devotion to his youngest son has he's moved through the football ranks. But it's a two-way street, Dad says. He classifies his relationship with Mike as “extremely special,” even dating back to the times when children begin to distance themselves from their parents.
“Mike always made me feel like I was welcome,” Chuck said, “and he always made me feel like he was interested in my opinion. He never made me feel like I didn't know what I was talking about.
“Even to this day, as ridiculous as it sounds, he'll ask me something and I think, ‘Wow, that was really nice of him to ask me.'”
Until last November, Mary, had taken care of herself in her Euclid home.
Yes, at 103 years old.
Chuck, who lived about a five-minute drive away, would swing by to check on her each day. But she still cooked breakfast and soup, washed her clothes in the sink and performed everyday tasks around the house on her own.
“She's an amazing person,” Chuck said.
Then, Mary suffered a mini stroke, causing her to need 24/7 care.
Mary's wish was to die at home, the place she's lived since moving to Euclid in 1957. So Chuck soon found himself in a caretaker role many adults fill when their parents or other relatives grow old.
He gets help once or twice a week from a hospice nurse and assistant, who bathe Mary and do her hair. But the vast majority of the responsibilities fall on Chuck.
It's a job that can be draining, yet extremely fulfilling.
“In a lot of ways, it's difficult, because I feel like I'm tethered to my mom's house,” Chuck said. “When you're with just one person, the same person, every day, you wear on each other. So there's frustration that sets in.
“But despite that, the fact that I'm able to be there for her in her last days is very rewarding. We share a lot of laughs and a lot of memories together.”
That consistent daily routine goes something like this: Mary will wake up around 11 a.m., and Chuck will help her use the restroom, then make her coffee and breakfast, usually an egg. He will put her back to bed for a nap from about 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. After making some dinner, usually soup, she'll return to bed again about 1 1/2 hours later.
Though Mike had many sleepovers at his grandma's house as a child and visits her every time he comes home, she never saw him play football. She thinks it's “too rough,” Chuck said. But Chuck always lets her know when the Cowboys are playing on TV. She's interested, but mostly in if she'd be able to see Mikey on the sideline. Since he's up in the coaches box, Chuck ends up watching the games alone, taping them so they're preserved.
“As a parent, you can't ask for anything more,” Chuck said. “It's beautiful. The fact that he's doing what he loves to do, that he's living out his dream, that means so much.”
Because of his situation at home, Chuck knows he won't get to travel to Stillwater or any other OSU game this season. But when he found out during the summer that the Cowboys would play at West Virginia, he immediately made plans for the trip.
Mary doesn't like it when Chuck leaves, even for a few hours. So he first braced Mom about the day-long trip weeks ago, then recently gave her another reminder.
“Who's gonna watch me?” Mary asked.
That would a gal named Vivian, a sitter Chuck has hired in the past whenever he's needed to leave home. She'll be with Mary from 6 a.m. until about midnight.
That allows Chuck to hit the road with his girlfriend, Ginny. They'll take Interstate 79, a highway he knows well. Years ago, he used to take it down to the intersection with Interstate 70, then cut east to watch Mike play quarterback for California. This time, Chuck will keep heading south on 79, eventually landing at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Around 11 a.m., they'll meet up with his oldest son, also named Chuck, and his family, along with Mike's wife, Julie.
Walking inside a football stadium to watch Mike play or coach is something Chuck has done countless times. He knows what he'll feel inside — pride, joy, happiness.
But this game, for so many reasons, will be extra special.
“In a way, I don't want anybody to bother me,” said Chuck, his voice choking up a tad. “I just want to be able to soak it all up and sit back and just watch it. I want to memorize it and enjoy every minute of it.”