Humbled by Honor, Confident in His Abilities

On Thursday, senior Zach Catanese was named to the Jim Thorpe Award watch list. Like some of the opposing players on the receiving end of his tackles, he never saw it coming. On the other hand, the safety fully realizes his skills and how together with good friend Josh Barrett, can the two become a major force to reckon with in 2006.

"I haven't heard about it until yesterday when Coach Koetter told me," said the 6-2 230 Zach Catanese about his national recognition. "It's an honor, and I still don't know what it all means. Sure, it caught me by surprise – I'm not gonna act like it didn't. It's real cool, but I still have to play well."

No one is complaining about his performance last season, and the Jim Thorpe Award obviously didn't overlook the fact that with 107 total tackles, the Arizona State safety is the Pac-10's returning leading tackler. "I gotta keep that up," he remarked. "Josh Barrett will help me out on that, sharing some tackles."

While the Sun Devils' defense may be full of question marks, few maroon and gold followers are doubting that Catanese and Barrett are probably considered the best safety duo in the conference. "I guarantee that," agreed Catanese. "I can see both of us as being one of the top safety tandems in the nation. Barrett has incredible athletic ability; he's fast and can really hit. We're great as a tandem, we're roommates, we always hang out…we know what each other thinks when we're out there on the football field. It's a relationship that not too many have."

With his physical stature Catanese can easily pass for a linebacker. At some point in the future, he may just take reps at that position. "It's always a thought," he admitted. "Coach tells me that I'll play linebacker one day. I like playing at safety because I get four more yards of vision to see what's going on. At linebacker you have less of a peripheral vision of the offense. I like to see where I'm going and pick out who I need to hit."

Following the inaugural 2006 fall practice, Catanese and his teammates were naturally exhausted. This was definitely not due to lack of conditioning, but rather just getting back to the grove of football practices. "Nothing is comparable to what we did with Coach House in the summer," he said. "But after the first practice, I'm still a little tired. It's a little too rough, but not too bad."

Finding the right rate to practice in is a delicate manner, especially at a time where the bar of expectations needs to be clearly communicated to the newcomers. "At first you want to set a tempo and a pace," explained Catanese, "so the young guys know what we're doing and how we like to do things around here. After a few days, you cool off a little and you don't have to sit there and let them know who you are. You don't have to get in their head all the time, because they'll see how you practice and play and do the same thing."

Speaking of the new faces on the squad, two have especially caught the eye of Catanese thus far. "Gerald Munns is doing great," he said. "He came to the spring ball practices to see how we practice; he was here all summer working out…he makes great reads at linebacker. I can really see him play a lot this year. Another good new player is Ryan McFoy. He's very talented and needs just to work on the mental part of the game so he can contribute this season. He definitely has the physical tools."

2005 was his first season with the Sun Devils, and as a JC transfer he suddenly finds himself a year later already talking about playing his last games at ASU. "It's scary how time flies really fast," commented Catanese. "You have to cherish every moment. Everything has to get done this year, and all the stuff that got missed last year has to be taken care of now. I just want my last season to be a good one."

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