Fresno City College quarterback Anthony Monken has a rooting interest in NASCAR, particularly the Sprint Cup division.
He is a distant cousin of Tony Stewart, the three-time champion of NASCAR’s premier series.
“It’s awesome,” Monken said of the connection. “Although I don’t personally know him very well, it’s really cool to see people in my family succeed.”
Monken’s father, Tony Monken, said his grandfather and Stewart’s are brothers. Tony Monken’s mom is the former JoEllen Stewart.
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Anthony Monken said he tries to catch Stewart’s races whenever he can, especially this season since Stewart has announced he will be retiring from the series after 2016.
Having someone in my family as successful as he is is awesome.
Fresno City quarterback Anthony Monken on watching distant cousin Tony Stewart in NASCAR races
“I grew up watching NASCAR races every Sunday,” said Monken, whose Rams host Reedley in the annual Battle for the Pump on Saturday. “We’ve watched Tony race for as long as I can remember.”
But the racing gene isn’t in Monken, a 6-foot-5 native of Libertyville, Ill.
“If I wasn’t playing football, I would probably be playing basketball,” he said. “If I had seriously considered racing when I was younger, I’m not so sure my mom would have ever let me get my license.”
Still, fandom for the sport and Stewart grew. Tony Monken said they “had a bunch of Tony Stewart Matchbox cars for (Anthony and his brother Thomas) to play with” when they were younger. One you could even put in a freezer and have it change colors. There were T-shirts and other collectibles.
Tony Monken doesn’t have anything signed from Stewart, though his parents have plenty.
“They used to go to his IndyCar races when they were in Milwaukee,” Tony Monken said. “I knew he was racing go-karts growing up. Really didn’t hear much else about it until the folks told me he was racing IndyCars. So of course we started watching that and when Anthony was young (Stewart) made the switch to Joe Gibbs’ NASCAR team, which was perfect for our family.”
Gibbs’ connection to football as a longtime NFL and college coach fueled more support from a Monken family that has built a coaching tree. Tony Monken’s brother Todd is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator. Jeff, a cousin, is Army’s head coach. Tony is a high school coach, and there are others in the family in the profession.
“Due to having a lot of coaches in my family, I obviously grew up around the sport, but I was never really pressured as a kid to pursue a career in football, which speaks volumes about my family,” Anthony Monken said. “To have the majority of the men on my dad’s side coaching football, and never once feel pressured to play or coach the sport is pretty amazing. It leaves me with a very tough act to follow, in a good way.”
Living up to anything close to what Stewart has achieved, the sophomore said, is just “extra motivation.”
“I certainly have my work cut out for me,” said Monken, 53 of 104 for 570 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions while sharing the QB job this season with freshman Andrew Zimmerman. “He’s seen nothing but success since his teenage years and it’s made me truly evaluate who and what I want to become and makes me strive for success that much more.”
Battle for the Pump
REEDLEY AT FRESNO CITY
▪ Saturday: 6 p.m. at Ratcliffe Stadium
▪ Records: Rams 2-2, Tigers 0-4