You're something of a scientist in your spare time from what I hear. Tell me about the project you were part of at West Virginia.
I was on doing some independent research, helping out one of my professors. We were trying to help develop a new technique to see how long something's been dead. There's a way you can determine a short amount of time, from a couple days to a week or so. Then you can tell if they've been dead for multiple years. We were trying to do something in between. They were burying pig heads and testing it out. I guess they dig them up every so often, and they can tell how long they've been dead by looking at the DNA.
Did you always have an interest in science?
I think the main thing was I always wanted to know why. When I was a kid, I'd go somewhere with my mom and I was always asking why. And I was always into numbers, trying to solve problems. I just like to know the inside of things.
So if football wasn't an option, what do you think your career plans would have been?
Eventually, I wanted to get into the CIA. I always want to find out things that not everybody knows. That goes back to me always asking why. I just always enjoyed solving problems. And then I started watching CSI and shows like that. I think that got me interested in forensics. But once you start doing it, you quickly realize that's really glorified and it's not really like that. But I like doing the research.
Another thing I learned about you last week is you threw for over 8,600 yards as a high school quarterback. Really?
I started three years at quarterback. I was more of a pocket passer. I always had great receivers around me. In my first couple of years, we always had good running backs. But we had a pretty wide-open offense. We'd have five wide (receivers), and we ran the no-huddle. I was making checks on the field and in the two-minute drill. I was calling the plays. (My coach) let me do that in my sophomore year. I was actually calling plays.
That must have been a lot of fun, no?
It was real fun. And in my freshman year, I started at receiver. We had two quarterbacks, going back and forth. In my sophomore year, our starting quarterback got a spider bite and missed half the year. I stepped in and took the job.
Do you ever miss playing quarterback?
I did at first. You touch the ball on every play, and you're in charge of everything. But I think it's a lot more fun to chase people down and hit them instead of letting them hit you.
These are my weekly questions: What's playing the most right now on your iPod?
Well, I don't really listen to what everybody else listens to. I grew up with two older sisters, so I'm really into old school R&B. And right now, in the locker room, we're listening to (rapper) Trinidad James. That's real big right now.
What website do you visit the most?
ESPN.com. And I'm always on Google, Googling stuff like different scientific facts.
When you're on ESPN, are you looking at football or other sports, too?
I'm a real big basketball fan. That's actually what I grew up playing first. But then I stopped growing after my freshman year of high school.
Finally, what's your favorite reality TV show?
Well, I don't watch too many reality shows.
Well, they don't talk a lot about science, do they?
No. I've been kind of watching X Factor a little bit lately, though.
At West Virginia, you were roommates with (Bucs linebacker) Najee Goode. What did he do that absolutely got on your nerves?
Probably the fact that he always ran out of gas.
When he first got his car, he ran out of gas probably three times in two weeks. And this is in Morgantown. You don't have to drive that far to go anywhere. He must have been putting in like $2 or $3. I'd be in class and would get a phone call, but I wouldn't pick it up. Then I'd get a text saying, "Hey, can you come pick me up?" I'm like, "For what?" He'd say, "Well, I ran out of gas again."
What was his explanation?
I don't know. I guess he just didn't want to put $50 in his tank at one time.
What about around the house? Was he messy?
Oh, man, he's one of the messiest guys you'll ever meet. But when he cleaned, he really cleaned. He'd clean everything spotless; the kitchen, his room, everywhere. But then he'd get done, and he'd start eating, and he'd have some ketchup on it, and he'd sit in the living room with that. We had every condiment in our house. And of course, he'd mess up the living room.
So how did you get on his nerves? Or were you the perfect roommate?
Of course I was.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @HolderStephen.