Mention the tattoo on Joe Gianino’s left bicep and then hand his dad a handkerchief.
“Every time I talk about it I cry,” Ralph Gianino III said.
When he turned 18 three years ago, Gianino, a junior weakside guard at the top of the Missouri football team’s preseason depth chart, got a tattoo on his left bicep to match his older brothers, Ralph IV and Nick. Below a shield and helmet with an Italian flag in the background — the Gianino family crest — reads, “Gianinos: In Family We Trust.”
With the tattoo, Gianino and his brothers want to start a family tradition. They grew up in Eureka, Mo., but their grandfather was born in Italy.
“They’re very proud of their heritage,” Ralph Gianino III said.
The Gianino brothers have started a few more traditions.
Like his older brothers, Gianino wants to teach and coach high school football. Ralph Gianino IV teaches and coaches at Marquette High outside St. Louis, and Nick Gianino does the same at Fox High in Arnold, Mo.
In the 1990s, Gianino’s brothers started for NAIA McKendree College. As a sophomore in 2002, Gianino started for MU at the beginning of the season.
That changed seven games in when senior Cliff Young replaced him at strongside guard. After moving guard positions, Gianino is ahead of sophomore Tony Palmer, a preseason All-Big 12 candidate and 2002 fourth-team freshman All-American.
At Tuesday’s half-scrimmage, Palmer played with the second string, but has been taking reps with the first team throughout the past week.
Gianino, 6 feet 3, 300 pounds, gained 15 pounds in the weight room this summer. He knows he will play this season, but he wants to start.
“The depth chart’s still open right now,” Gianino said. “Every single game it will still be open.”
Twice a week Ralph Gianino III travels to Columbia to watch his son’s competition for playing time. A “Gianino: No. 57” T-shirt is the standard apparel for Gianino’s dad and anyone who accompanies him.
At Tuesday’s practice, Bill Baynes, Gianino’s cousin, wore the yellow 2002 model while Ralph Gianino III had on this year’s black-colored T-shirt.
“For the spring game, I had 35 people down there wearing my shirt like that,” Gianino said. “It’s pretty cool to have that much support.”
A week into camp, Gianino offers the same support to his teammates, from leading the offensive line in the end-of-practice laps to rooming with Marty Raab, a freshman guard and fellow Eureka High alumnus, in the residence halls during preseason practices as part of MU coach Gary Pinkel’s “Big Brother” program.
“He loves to play football; he works tremendously hard,’’ Pinkel said. “He’s got a great attitude and he’s also got a lot of experience, so he’s a great asset to our offensive line.”
During the spring, Gianino hosted several offensive line get-togethers at his apartment. His teammates and coaches notice his dedication.
“He’s handling everything pretty well, not making a lot of mistakes,” senior center A.J. Ricker said. “It looks like he’s having fun out there.”
Said offensive line coach Dave Christensen: “He’s done a good job from a leadership standpoint, he’s got a good work ethic. He sets a good example, I think.”
Gianino’s fan club from the Black and Gold game will double for the MU-Illinois game Aug. 30. In addition to the four tickets Gianino receives, Ralph Gianino III bought 68 tickets for his family and friends.
“We’re trying to get this thing turned around,” Gianino said. “I try to bring toughness to the o-line. We get in everybody’s faces, it’s a good time.”