Are your Chicago roots a big part of who you are?
Chicago is a great city. We're all blue-collar guys there who work hard. When you come out of a place like that and make a name for yourself, it's something to be proud of. There's nothing special about me. I just made it out of the South Side, so I have to represent.
White Sox or Cubs?
White Sox, of course. Everybody likes the Cubs because of (cable network) WGN. You can watch Cubs games anywhere, even California. I was watching Cubs games when I was out there training. They're kind of a global team. It's kind of like comparing the Yankees and the Mets. But then again, the Yankees have had a lot more success than the Cubs (laughing). So, I guess there's a big difference.
When people think South Side of Chicago, they usually think about it being a scary place. What comes to mind when you think about it?
What I think about is taking the Cottage Grove bus line all the time, the No. 4. That's what I think about. It's the bus line that runs through the neighborhood. I've spent a lot of time on that bus. I also think about the YMCA there. Basketball is everywhere, but on the South Side and the West Side — actually basketball in the city of Chicago, period — is real competitive. If you came up in Chicago, at some point in time, you actually thought you were going to be a basketball player. I don't know how long that lasted for me, but you definitely believe that growing up.
What were the pickup games like in the neighborhood? Pretty serious?
Oh, definitely. There was no telling who would show up. I went in there one day and (singer) R. Kelly was in there playing. It just goes to show you how universal it is there.
Did you play in high school?
I did. I played in junior college, too. I played center (in high school). Center?
Yeah. I was a big guy, so they told me, "Just go down there and bang around." I was like, "Man, I'm 6-2!" I'm not the tallest cat, but I could jump out of the gym. And I played okay against some taller guys, too. It wasn't that big a deal for me.
Did you ever play against any of the studs to come out of Chicago?
Well, I was told that I played against (the Miami Heat's) Dwyane Wade once in a Christmas tournament. I don't really remember him. He's a little older than me. He kind of played on a boring team, so it wasn't that big a deal. Now, he's a gold medalist. What's the most interesting thing on your iPod?
Actually, I have some old-school Marvin Gaye. I definitely have some of that. I have his CD Here, My Dear. It's not one of his most popular albums, but it's good. That's a lot of what I heard growing up. A funny thing is, my mom used to listen to a lot of light rock/pop. I mean, it was drilled into me. Stuff like Celine Dion, maybe. I'll walk into Walgreens or something and hear a song and it's like, "I know that song!" It's not like I'm humming along with it, but it's familiar.
What Web site do you visit most?
I probably look at my bank account for the most part. After that, I might look at buccaneers.com. I guess that's a shameless plug, huh?
Uh, yes. Okay, how about this: Do you have a guilty pleasure?
I know: Every time I go to the mall, I have to get Cinnabon. And why does it seem like they're always by the entrance? So they catch you either coming in or going out. I have to have one. You can smell it before you even get in there.
I know you don't have a lot of time about now, but in the offseason, what's a good way to spend your time?
Well, Sabby (Piscitelli) talked me into getting a Jet Ski. Well, not really. I wasn't just following him. I want to experience some stuff while I'm young, so it's nice to get a few toys.
Are you a daredevil on it or is that not for you?
Oh, no. I've never even fallen off. I stay dry, man.
On a serious note, I know you lost both your parents separately when you were in high school. How did that shape you as a man?
It's made me a whole lot more self-sufficient. You have to learn how to take care of you. I learned how to make a lot of decisions for myself. That's a good thing. But at the same time, it's probably made me not allow other people to handle some things. Sometimes maybe you should rely on people a little bit. But then you have this fear people might let you down.
You're the youngest of three kids. Did your siblings help get you through?
Oh, yeah. They kept me afloat for a long time. My brother (Elliott) is the one who encouraged me to stay in school. I left for college right after (my mother's death). I got down to Mississippi (for junior college), and I was homesick. He kept telling me to stay in school, and it's really one of the things that helped me get where I am now.
He once shared a basketball court with Dwyane Wade (we think), and he knows a thing or two about Marvin Gaye, too. Chicago-bred Quincy Black, a Bucs linebacker, recently delved into these and other topics.