Baloney Hurdles Adversity

When life throws curve balls at you, it would be fairly easy to give up on your aspirations. In light of some off-the field events, Sun Devils cornerback Chris Baloney certainly could have given up his dream of playing college football. Yet, he persevered and is now poised to fill a dire need on the ASU defense.

Just a few days before he was about to leave for ASU and start preparing for the 2005 campaign, Chris Baloney found out that he was a father. After being a short time in Tempe, he made the tough decision to take a leave of absence from his team, so he could back to his Houston home and help raise his newborn boy Jahiem, who's now three years old.

The thoughts of forgoing college football did cross Baloney's mind. Nonetheless, he did manage to return to the Sun Devils. He started 2006 a very strong note. In the season-opener against Northern Arizona he returned a 35-yard interception for a touchdown, and in only six games played he registered 17 total tackles, along with two interceptions. A leg injury suffered in the second of the game never fully healed. He managed to play the first six games of the season hampered by that injury, before giving way to it and sitting out the last seven games of the year.

"Coming back to the team wasn't hard, it was harder to leave," said Baloney. "When I came back, I was excited to be back at Arizona State, and I played well to start the season. I wanted to continue to play well the whole season, but the injury just got to me. This year I'm working hard to stay healthy, eating better foods, taking good care of my body so I can do better things in 2007."

Baloney was listed as a starter coming out of spring practice, and in the first few fall practices he has for the most part held onto that position. "Coaches look at me as someone that needs to stand up – this being my senior year," he remarked. "They saw the stuff I did the first couple of games. Now it's up to me to show that I can fill those shoes they're asking me to fill. It's my senior year and I'm looking to go out there everyday, make the best out of it, and work hard."

To say that question marks surround the ASU cornerback situation would be an understatement. Specifically, the uncertainty of who will start opposite Justin Tryon has been a well-discussed topic for quite a few months now. Baloney doesn't disagree with that discussion, but naturally believes that he has the ability to squelch any doubts that the staff and the maroon and gold faithful still have over this issue.

"It's true – the consistency hasn't been there," Baloney admitted. "But as far as I go, it's up to me to hold down the right side down and make plays. We know what people are saying about the position, and all we need to do is to go out there and make each other better, make the receivers better, and just go out and there and compete every down."

Baloney noted that the off-season workouts have been very productive for him, as well as for the squad. "I ran hard and conditioned, and worked hard on my game. I was surprised I ran a 4.45 because I had a hamstring problem," he commented. "We really came together as a team and get into each other's head and say that we have to player harder this season. We have new coaches and we have to prove ourselves to them. We do feel very comfortable with the coaches this year, but we still have to do well."

It may not be entirely true that the returning cornerbacks have to prove themselves all over again, since their position coach Al Simmons, was held over fro the old coaching staff. "He's a great coach. He's a great teacher that always shows us what we need to do to be perfect in our execution," said Baloney. "He's hard on us, but he's hard on us for all the right reasons. He wants us to be the best for us and the best for the team."

In terms of the new schemes, Baloney sees a lot of value to them on both sides of the ball. "We have new packages and schemes and I like them," he stated. "Compared to last year, we're really emphasizing takeaways this year. We have to help the offense and make it easy for them to score, and hopefully have the defense score some points. We're also running to the ball more. I also like the schemes that the offense runs because they look more like Pac-10 offenses. We get to see more shotgun formations, spread offense…which is what you see in the Pac-10. I think that formation will be very good for our offense."

The cornerback feels that he has improved on reading offenses better, which in turn allows to him to ‘cheat' on routes better and baiting opposing quarterbacks. As far as coverage skills, there's one player on the team that helps him in a great way to improve on his abilities. "Mike Jones. He gives you a lot of moves, uses his hands real well, and he's a big guy," Baloney explained. "It's good to play against him, because he's like a lot of those tall Pac-10 receivers that you will have to cover during the season."

Baloney makes no bones about the fact that his first and foremost goal is to be that starting cornerback that coaches and fans have been so worried over. "Also as a team, I want us to just win," he noted, "go out every down and play hard. I want the team to be proud of the plays I make and I want to help them be successful."

Pride is definitely an emotion that the cornerback is filled with when he talks about Jahiem, and having him in his life is something that has and will affect him on the gridiron. "It was unexpected, but having a son is great because I have someone to do for all the things I do," he explained. "My son…for him to see his daddy do well, that makes me feel good. For him to see me make a big play and tell me about it, that makes my day and playing football that much easier."

And Chris Baloney is certainly due for some easier times in his life…

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