SAN DIEGO -- Marc Kouzmanoff grew up Glen Ellyn, Ill., about 25 miles outside of Chicago, where football was in his blood from an early age.

Kouzmanoff, father of San Diego third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff, eventually played at the University of Montana and then realized a dream by signing a free agent deal with the Chicago Bears in 1974.

Kouzmanoff played the preseason with the Bears -- a team that had just lost Dick Butkus and was still a year away from drafting Walter Peyton -- before being cut before the start of the regular season.

But while football was always a big part of Marc Kouzmanoff's life, he never pushed his son Kevin toward it.

"When Kevin was younger, he was really small; he wrestled at 103 pounds as a freshman in high school," the elder Kouzmanoff said. "It wasn't until his junior year when he blew up. He could have been a good football player. He just chose baseball."

"I gave wrestling a shot as a freshman," the younger Kouzmanoff said. "But the idea of starving myself, I didn't like. I went in weighing 110 so I had to starve myself for the meets. I think I started growing after that. I've always been small."

The decision to stick with baseball has proven to be a good one, as Kouzmanoff, in his second season in San Diego, has shown signs of becoming an offensive force after hitting 18 home runs in his rookie season of 2007.

But reaching the Major Leagues wasn't easy, dating all the way back to high school, when Kouzmanoff had no offers to play college baseball.

"He never made all-conference in high school," Marc Kouzmanoff said.

Kevin eventually played two years at Cochise Junior College in Arizona and later the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and University of Nevada. It was until late in his college career when professional baseball was considered a viable option.

"He just got better and better and better as his training, both physical and mental, started to build up," Marc Kouzmanoff said. "We never, ever discussed professional baseball. I think his only goal was to get drafted."

And while Marc Kouzmanoff's athletic past saw him involved more with football and wrestling, he's quickly becoming a big baseball fan. Marc and his wife, Kim, watch the Padres games at home in Evergreen, Colorado.

"I think he's learning more and more about baseball every day from watching it on TV, becoming more familiar with the game," the Padres third baseman said. "Sometimes he tries to help me too much."

But Kouzmanoff knows that no matter what, his father and the rest of his family are there to support him.

We're a very sports-oriented family," he said. "It always felt good to play sports throughout my life and have my family support me."