By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian
James “Rocky” Gianola, a widely known Morgantown attorney, saw action as both an offensive center and place-kicker at West Virginia University from 1974-78.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound athlete played two years for coach Bobby Bowden and two years for coach Frank Cignetti as a Mountaineer. He earned letters as a junior and senior.
But Gianola, a Morgantown native, actually became special as a star at Morgantown High. He was a quarterback and linebacker as well as a noted place-kicker for the Mohigans.
Gianola set the school record by kicking a 48-yard field goal. Then later he broke that with a 52-yarder in game competition. That new record may still stand.
He earned two letters in 1977 and ’78 at WVU to go with his three letters from MHS.
He remains a big booster of both of his alma maters.
Gianola received a bachelor’s degree in 1978, then earned a law degree from the WVU College of Law.
Asked whether those two record field goals in high school provided a great feeling, Gianola replied: “Not really. On one of them, I didn’t really know until the next day that it was a record.”
He said, “The years I spent at MHS and WVU were some of the greatest times of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed those experiences.”
While he performed at three positions as a schoolboy, Rocky started out as a place-kicker at the university and eventually switched to center on the offensive unit.
“I enjoyed playing football for both Coach Bowden and Coach Cignetti,” Gianola said. “I’d do it again tomorrow.
“Both led us to some good victories while I was there.”
However, he noted that Cignetti had a very impressive coaching staff even though his teams weren’t as successful for lack of enough talent. Most of those assistants went on to become big names themselves as head coaches elsewhere.
Nick Saban, a native of Marion County, is being paid several million dollars a year at defending national champion Alabama.
Others Rocky mentioned included head coaches Gary Tranquill (Navy) and Joe Pendry (Pittsburgh Maulers), among others.
Cignetti, who excelled as athletic director and head coach at Indiana (Pa.) University, his alma mater, now is in the National Football Hall of Fame.
“I had a great time as a Mountaineer,” Gianola stressed. “I’d do it again. The friendships you make and the commitment you make and the hard work, you learn about life from lessons.”
Rocky, who’s 56, and his wife Vickie have been married 29 years. They have two daughters, Mallory and Sara Ashley.
Mr. Gianola is a leader with a law firm in Morgantown. Mrs. Gianola is a business woman who recruits qualified people for administrative jobs in hospitals.
Mallory Gianola is the special events coordinator at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
Sara Ashley Gianola is a senior at WVU finishing requirements for her degree in theater.