Quarry Q & A
By Paul Honda
Monday, April 8, 2002
HONOLULU – Marco Chavez is on a mission. His means will be speed.
The transfer from Palomar College arrived in Manoa weighing 248 pounds following a month of R & R. The linebacker has since shed five pounds and is aiming to drop another five or 10 to reach the peak of his powers.
It's all about speed, he says. In that light, it is also easy to see how he's dropped poundage; he and quarterback Jason Whieldon have almost no food in the Palolo house they share.
Chavez talked with RSN Thursday about life away from home, the lure of Hawaii and the need for speed.
The skinny (no pun intended):
Marco Chavez (LB, 6-3, 245, Jr, Palomar College)
Played two seasons at Palomar College in California...a two-time first-team all-conference pick...also earned first-team all-state honors as a senior...helped Palomar win the Southern California junior college championship ... graduated from St. Paul High School in 2000 where he earned two letters in football, three in volleyball and one in wrestling ... listed as the Press-Telegram's "Best of the West" ... also earned first-team all-league and all-area honors at St. Paul High ... also recruited by USC, Texas A&M, New Mexico, Tulsa and Colorado ... is already enrolled at UH and will participate in spring drills.
(Courtesy of UH Athletics)
RSN Paul: Marco, the scheme you guys ran last year, what was it compared to what you guys run here?
Chavez: I'm playing a different position right now so it's a bit different. We blitzed a lot at Palomar. We'd try to bring as many as we could. Dropped back a lot of the DBs, obviously. It's pretty much the same here. We'll bring a lot of linebackers. At some point, we'll blitz the outside ‘backers and we'll take out the ends, make them cover us a little bit. The scheme's the same in a sense, but of course, different because of different personnel.
RSN Paul: So what did you play last year? You were a linebacker, right?
Chavez: Yeah, I was a middle linebacker.
RSN Paul: Now you're outside?
Chavez: I'll be playing strong side linebacker.
RSN Paul: Is it something totally foreign? Back in high school or Pop Warner, did you play outside?
Chavez: I played three years strong side linebacker, but I played middle for another three years. I played Stud for my first three years …
RSN Paul: Stub?
Chavez: No, Stud – strong side.
RSN Paul: Oh, strong side.
Chavez: I played middle for the last three years, so I have to get back to getting used to playing the outside spots. It's not difficult, but you have to get used to it like anything.
RSN Paul: It's like relearning a language.
Chavez: Exactly, exactly. But it's coming, it's coming.
RSN Paul: What's coach (Kevin) Lempa like for you compared to your old defensive coordinator?
Chavez: Well, we didn't see much of our old defensive coordinator, and it's good now because he's our position coach. It's good getting into the mind of the person running the defense, so you understand it a lot more.
RSN Paul: What about the guys you're playing with, what's the difference?
Chavez: There's a lot more leadership here. There's a seniority. You have a lot more pride in a university as opposed to a junior college. There's a lot more pride in what they're doing – seniority. Everyone respects each other a lot more because they know they're out here for a purpose, not only for themselves to get to a D1, but to win a championship.
RSN Paul: How'd you guys do at Palomar?
Chavez: We did good. We went to the national. Took the Southern California state championship, but we lost to (City College of) San Francisco in the national championship.
RSN Paul: How much work have you put in since the end of last season until now?
Chavez: Oh, a lot. Since the first day I got here, I was in the weight room with Coach Mel (DeLaura). The first day I got here, I've never lifted so hard in my life. So, it was good. I've put in a lot of work. I've been in the weight room every day, just trying to get as strong as these guys, and faster.
RSN Paul: You guys weight train at Palomar, too, though.
Chavez: No, we didn't. We didn't even have a weight program at all. We didn't even have a weight room.
RSN Paul: (laughs)
Chavez: Everybody just lifted on their own. There was a lot of running, though. Our conditioning pretty much was our key.
RSN Paul: Your strength, basically, is your speed?
Chavez: Yeah. I would say not right now ‘cause I have no legs. I can't even feel them ‘cause of all the running. I think my body, after the two years at Palomar, I just gotta get used to the lifting weights and stuff. I gotta get my speed up. But it was my strength throughout the years. I would say my speed. I had pretty good speed.
RSN Paul: You guys rep with 225?
Chavez: Oh, on bench?
RSN Paul: Yeah. How much can you rep?
Chavez: Aw, dude, I don't know. I don't want to say.
RSN Paul: Give me a number so that one year from now, I can say, ‘See …'
Chavez: Like, 14.
RSN Paul: Fourteen. What about the squat?
Chavez: Squat I did 405 five times.
RSN Paul: 405 five times.
Chavez: That was a five-rep max.
RSN Paul: What about, ahh … your 40 time?
Chavez: My 40 time? I was clocked at a 4.6. I still gotta get that up. But that was at a JC. It's a lot different here. I haven't clocked it here yet, so I don't know.
RSN Paul: What about June Jones? Is it kind of weird to come to a school that's known for offense? The defense last year was improved, but the offense gets all the notoriety, and then you come here. What's that like?
Chavez: It's not a big difference because at Palomar, it's the same way. We didn't have the same offense, because we had a tight end, but it was the same way. It was all offense-based. Palomar is known for their offense and their great quarterbacks and receivers, and Tom Kraft, who is now the head coach at San Diego State. He was our head coach at Palomar and it was the same thing – all offense-based. I think this goes a lot more equal because at Palomar, it was all offense, and if we had time, then we'd do defense, too. I like it more here because you get more looks at defense, so it's not that bad.
RSN Paul: You think the defense is simplified here, and you get to run different kinds of blitzes, or is it a lot more complex?
Chavez: It's about the same. We ran a pretty complex offense at Palomar. I was a Mike (middle linebacker), so I had to know everything. It's not that different now. It's just like I'm getting told the defense, so I'll do it. It's not very difficult. I just gotta get to know it like anything.
RSN Paul: Who else recruited you real heavy?
Chavez: Real heavy, in early spring, it was Texas A&M, USC was on the line. Washington. There was one more school.
RSN Paul: They were all ready to give scholarships?
Chavez: They say that, but when it comes down to it, JC ball's all about, if they don't get the high school kid, then we get the JC. I mean, so they say, a locked deal, but when it comes down to it, it's a different story.
RSN Paul: What got you to lean over to Hawaii?
Chavez: See, the thing was that, I got home from school one day and Coach Lempa was on the phone. I met with him and talked to him. There's no better place to be than Hawaii as far as football goes. And, I mean, this isn't the same Hawaii that used to, like, go 0-12. It's a lot different program. June Jones is one of the best coaches around. They went 9-3 and things are just on the up and up, so it's a really good school to go to.
RSN Paul: Did you come there thinking, well, this is where I want to be, or also, I have a good chance to start. What was your thinking?
Chavez: I knew this was a place I wanted to be because no matter what school you go to or what they promise you, there's always people that are competitors. At this level, you can be as good as you were at high school or JC. When you get here, there's guys that are just as good as you. I mean, it doesn't matter.
RSN Paul: Did you bring any old high school T-shirts with you?
Chavez: Oh yeah. That's like my pride and joy, St. Paul High School.
RSN Paul: St. Paul. From what town?
Chavez: Santa Fe Springs.
RSN Paul: Santa Fe Springs. You got a St. Paul shirt on now?
Chavez: No. not right now.
RSN Paul: Next time you have one on, let me know, and then I'll take a picture of you with the shirt on.
RSN Paul: And we'll put that on the net. Now I gotta ask you some serious questions.
Chavez: (laughs) All right.
RSN Paul: Jason claims that he puts all his food in his room. Is that true?
Chavez: Yeah, he does. He stuffs all his candy in there and stuff.
RSN Paul: Candy?
RSN Paul: His, uh, Fruity Pebbles?
Chavez: Fruity Pebbles? No, not really. Just, like, his chocolates. His Snickers.
RSN Paul: The important stuff.
Chavez: We usually eat up here, so we don't keep much food at our house. Our fridge is empty.
RSN Paul: He did say he does put food in his room, but he doesn't go as far as to label his food.
Chavez: (laughs) No. Like I said, we have nothing in the fridge, so there's nothing to label. But we're cool about that. We share whatever we have anyway. It's no big deal.
RSN Paul: You guys do all your shopping at Foodland.
Chavez: Ahh, well, I haven't done much shopping since I've been here. When I do, the closest store is probably where I'm going to shop.
RSN Paul: He rides a moped. You get around on a moped, too?
Chavez: I get around on a moped. Actually, I want to sell it and buy a little truck. I don't want to fall on that thing.
RSN Paul: You know there's a tradition at UH of athletes and mopeds not working out together.
Chavez: I've heard, I've heard. I've been wanting to get a motorcycle, but my mom said, ‘No way.' And then I've heard about the accidents and stuff, so that's kind of out of my mind. That could ruin my chances to be a big player.
RSN Paul: You're getting around right now on …
Chavez: A little moped. I'm only a minute away from the school so I can shoot over here. Plus, it's still night time when I come out, so nobody's on the street.
RSN Paul: You guys live walking distance from McDonald's?
Chavez: Yeah, exactly.
RSN Paul: So you guys spend some time there?
Chavez: We try not to. That'll mess up your diet, but yeah, sometimes.
RSN Paul: You have a strict diet or something?
Chavez: I try to. I came here at 253, and I'm at 243 now. I've lost about 10 pounds because I need my speed to get back up. I only had about a month off out of pads because we just stopped in December. Out of that time, I did absolutely nothing. My body was so tired. I was just trying to rest whatever aches and pains, so I didn't do anything and gained about 15 pounds.
RSN Paul: You're listed at 248, so you're 243 – that's good.
Chavez: Yeah, I'm trying.
RSN Paul: What's the optimum? What's the best?
Chavez: I want to get light – between 235 and 240. Right now, not only in college, but your only chance of getting into the NFL is if you have speed.
RSN Paul: The NFL is very much speed now.
Chavez: It's everything. This whole game is about speed now. I mean, you have to have strength in the interior, everything else, you have to have speed or you're not going to see the field.
RSN Paul: I think Cav was talking about that, in the NFL now, unlike in the ‘70s and ‘80s when guys were bulky, if you see these guys in person now, they're so lean. They're buff, but they're so lean.
Chavez: Exactly. You've got to keep as little body fat as possible to get your speed up. It doesn't matter if you're a soft 250; if you're a solid 235, you're going to do just as much damage and be a lot faster.
RSN Paul: St. Paul High School, that's in Southern California?
Chavez: Yeah, Southern California.
RSN Paul: So you didn't grow up a 49er fan.
Chavez: Not really. I loved going to NFL games, but I didn't love watching it on TV. I love watching college on TV. (NFL on TV) kind of bores me. In college, everybody looks so fast. But in the NFL, everybody is so fast, it looks kind of regular-paced, so it kind of bores me. Plus, during the season, you're in meetings and football, and you're all footballed out by the time you get home. You don't even want to see a TV. You just want to rest from it.
RSN Paul: Just watch Conan O'Brien.
Chavez: Yeah, seriously, to get your mind off it or else you get burned out.
RSN Paul: What are you majoring in?
RSN Paul: So this is going to lead to …
Chavez: Uhh, broadcasting after the NFL.
RSN Paul: Ohhh, after the NFL?
RSN Paul: So there's no ifs?
Chavez: No, no ifs. No ifs.
RSN Paul: Jason mentioned that he has some spending money, but that you have more.
Chavez: (laughs) No, I just spend my money wisely. It's not that I have more.
RSN Paul: Really?
RSN Paul: Jason doesn't spend his money wisely?
Chavez: I don't know.
RSN Paul: He spends his money on candy.
Chavez: (laughs) He probably does, yeah. He has boxes full of candy in his room.
RSN Paul: That's not good for you.
Chavez: No, it's not. But he's a quarterback, so he doesn't do that much during practice. I always tease him about that, ‘cause he can stay up late and he just comes out here and throws the ball around, whereas everybody else has to run. So I tease him about that all the time.
RSN Paul: He stays up later than you?
Chavez: Uh, yeah, I would say so.
RSN Paul: What's it like living in Hawaii?
Chavez: It's beautiful. I mean, I just went home for the spring. I have asthma, so as soon as I got off the plane, I had to use my inhaler because I could not breathe.
RSN Paul: Because?
Chavez: The smog. I didn't realize how much smog there was because I lived there for so long. I came back and see this weather every day, and then go back to Los Angeles and I couldn't even breathe, so it's beautiful here. I haven't got a chance to really see much because I don't have a car or anything, but as soon as I have a car and a little time, I'll explore the island a little more.
RSN Paul: You think you and Jason will room for a while?
Chavez: Oh yeah. We'll room for a while. You're never there. You just go and sleep, and then get back up at 5 and head back off to school. Come home at 9:30, just crash. Do that every day.
RSN Paul: Get up at 5.
RSN Paul: 5:45. Is this the first time you had to get up for 7 a.m. practices consistently?
Chavez: Um, no, no. I got up early at all my schools, high school and at Palomar.
RSN Paul: You guys practiced early?
Chavez: Yeah, during double days. We had practice at 7, or if not practice, meetings. So it's nothing new. I kind of like it, actually. You can enjoy your days. The day's a little longer. I'm only here for two years; I want to enjoy it as much as I can.
RSN Paul: Have you tried raw fish yet?
Chavez: Uh, yeah. Sushi? I love that. I eat anything. The only thing I don't like is liver. I'll eat anything else.
RSN Paul: Liver has no purpose.
Chavez: It doesn't.
RSN Paul: Liver contains many toxins.
Chavez: Yeah, it does. I don't like it much. Anything else, I love. I love sushi. I love raw fish.
RSN Paul: The thing with liver is, you can always take iron pills. It filters out all the junk us animals eat.
Chavez: (laughs) It does. It's not very good tasting.
RSN Paul: Jason won't eat raw fish, he says. Maybe someday.
Chavez: I don't know. I don't think he's had the good kind yet. He's probably had a bad experience, but it depends where you go. You have to go to a place that's legit. You can't just go to any place and eat raw fish, ‘cause not only would it not taste good, but you would get really sick.
RSN Paul: They have it at Foodland.
Chavez: Do they? Hey, I'll probably try that out.
RSN Paul: You can sample it. If you ask them, they have toothpicks and you can sample.
Chavez: Oh really? I'll probably take some and make him try it.
RSN Paul: How do your parents feel about you being far away?
Chavez: My brother played football for Utah State, and that was about an hour and 40 minutes away (by plane), so they're kind of used to it. My mom, she was sad for about a month after I left, but now she's good because she has a reason to come to Hawaii, so it's not a bad place.
RSN Paul: What about your dad?
Chavez: Uh, he doesn't say much about it. He's happy. He's happy I'm here. He's the silent type when it comes to things like that, but he's happy that I'm here. Like I said, they have a chance to come to Hawaii. Whenever they do, they have a chance to come visit me now. It's a good deal here.
RSN Paul: All right, man.
Chavez: All right.
RSN Paul: Thanks, Marco.