Emanuel: "We Want Payback"

Safety <b>Ben Emanuel</b> is one of the best players on UCLA's defense, but sometimes doesn't get the hype of others. He talks about paying back Colorado, honors, expectations, his fellow Texan and position coach Gary DeLoach and the NFL...

After two years as an understudy in the secondary, Ben Emanuel moved into the starting lineup towards the end of the 2001 season, and stayed there in 2002, tying for the team lead in interceptions. This year, Emanuel anchors the defense as the free safety. He talks about being part of the safety tandem with Jarrad Page, his fellow Texan and position coach Gary DeLoach, and his thoughts on the NFL.

BRO: There is some talk about this being one of the best secondaries in the nation. You are the anchor as the free safety. Talk about the defensive backs...

Emanuel: "Confidence is at an all-time high. We try not to listen to people too much, and not let them dictate how we feel. The way we are playing on the field, it seems like we're going to have a real good year. Our linebackers, our line, the whole core of our defense is real good, so it means we should have a good year, and when everyone up front is that much better, it makes it better for the defensive backfield. We're looking forward to this year. We're hoping to live up to the expectations. We're trying to, and i'ts pretty good company. Every guy in the secondary wants to prove that we are one of the best backfields in the Pac-10, if not the country."

BRO: You look at all the great safeties that played at UCLA -- Kenny Easley, Don Rogers, Eric Turner, Shaun Williams -- This is Safety U. Do you feel that there is a legacy that you have to live up to playing safety at UCLA?

Emanuel: "Yeah, you want to live up to it, but you still have to go out and play the game and do what you have to do. And if you prove yourself your name will be mentioned with them. You definitely want to shoot for those goals, though, those interceptions and tackles, and you want to hear your name with them. But I want them to remember the whole defense, not just me. I want them to remember that unit we had, have some nicknames for our defense."

BRO: Some are saying this is the best safety tandem UCLA has had in years, as good as Eric Turner/Matt Darby, better than Shaun Williams/Larry Atkins. How do you feel about your potential with Jarrad Page?

Emanuel: "It's real comfortable. We don't even think about the future too much, we're focused on right now, but we have a lot of confidence in ourselves and we want to prove we are the best safeties and right now we have a lot of confidence in our play. We are pushing each other, to make plays and I think we are making each other better."

BRO: A couple of NFL scouts have said you are one of the most underrated players in the Pac-10. You ever get frustrated with the lack of attention?

Emanuel: "Yeah, in a way. But I like that. There is always something to prove. It just makes me work harder. As long as the people I am playing against respect me, that's enough for me and if we are winning."

BRO: I'm sure (former Washington State QB) Jason Gesser sees you in his dreams? (Emanuel had four interceptions of Gesser passes the past two season, two returned for touchdowns.) How was it that you had the number of Washington State?

Emanuel: (laughing). "Yeah, I'm thinking that, too. I love playing them. They are one of my favorite teams in the Pac. I'll play receiver up there."

BRO: There is no other way to look at the game against Colorado last year but to say they took it to you. How do you guys plan to reverse that this year?

Emanuel: "We jump right in the fire. It's real important for us to show that we are not soft, and to make a statement for our defense. We want to get some payback on them in their house now."

BRO: Your position coach (Gary DeLoach) is a fellow Texan. Does it make you feel more at home? Emanuel: "It's funny sometimes. Coaches are the same, but then they are not. The sayings he says, I laugh cause I know them, I have heard them before The other guys are looking funny, trying to figure out what he says, and he says it but I heard them from my coaches back home. They just laugh, but I've heard it before. He is real cool. He is just like my old coaches in high school."

BRO: You are draft eligible, and another good season could possibly move you to first-day-draft status. You giving any thought to leaving?

Emanuel: "Nah, not really. I don't really think to myself like that. I think I got to keep playing, keep improving. I just play the game. I love being at UCLA, I just want to be playing football. It's like a dream to play in the league, but I don't want to think about it yet. But if I play good, I can make it happen."

BRO: I'm sure the Houston Texans could use some help in their defensive backfield...

Emanuel: "Yeah, that's what I dream about. That would be a perfect scenario for me, playing back home. But that's all in the future."

BRO: Your cousin Bert came here, then left, but he obviously knows what it's like to leave Texas and come out West, then to make it to the NFL. How has he helped you?

Emanuel: "He's been a small influence. He showed me some things how to adjust in life, adjust to UCLA, and to football period, and ways to help me grow and mature. And I appreciate that, someone to help me who's been through the same things. Luckily for me, I have been able to stick it out here, and hopefully, I can get to where he is."

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