At 6-foot-2 ½, 265 pounds, Tony Mekari is just about all muscle. The barrel-chested defensive tackle has repped 225 pounds 18 times in his best set in the Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake weight room, and under the hood, he's got one hell of an engine -- an engine which got new California defensive line coach Barry Sacks buzzing.
"He just seemed so tireless. He seemed up-tempo and everything, and it felt like he could push me forward to get to my maximum potential," Mekari says of his future coach. "He was very excited about me being tireless in my work ethic, and how I paid attention to small details, that if something was an issue, I was smart enough to look at it and change it."
Mekari is a persistent, high-motor three-technique defensive tackle for the Warriors, a position he would occupy for the Bears, as well. The fact that he'd be playing in a four-man front for Andy Buh was one of the reasons he decided that Cal would be a better fit for him than the program which previously held his commitment: Arizona.
"Arizona wanted me to play at nose, in a three-man front, but Cal wanted me to play the three-technique in a four-man line, and that also was a part of my decision, because I feel like I can be more successful playing a three-technique," Mekari says. "I think that whatever can be my max, that's my max, and do I think it can be great? Yes, I think I can be great, but it's going to take a lot of work to get there. With coach Sacks, that's another thing: I feel like he can push me there, too. That was a great feeling to have."
Three weeks ago in Visalia, Calif., Mekari showed just how much he loves to dive headfirst into the fray, proving to be one of the stouter interior defensive linemen in the Cal State Game, coming away with two sacks and a fumble recovery on the bemired Mineral King Bowl turf.
"I don't think anyone ever wants to play in a game like that every week. It inhibits everyone's ability to play, to a point, but it was a blast of a game," Mekari laughs. "Once in a while, you just want a game like that, where you get all dirty and you get mud in your eyes and in your mouth. It was a blast."
That sentiment for the slop goes beyond just wallowing for the pigskin, though.
"I think coach Sacks nailed it when he told me in his office: I've got a work ethic, and I get dirty," Mekari says. "I get in the mud sometimes, when I play, and it's just, I notice when something's not working right, and I change it quickly. If I'm not playing right in the first quarter, I can change it around and get better in the second, and if I'm still not getting what I want to get, I can change it in the third and the fourth quarters."