Cornerback Elbert Mack is one of the nicest guys you'll meet, until he gets immersed in a heated game of pool with Aqib Talib. And you have to respect a man who can wear a pair of sky blue and pink basketball shoes.
What's the biggest difference between Tampa and your hometown of Wichita?
The weather is a lot different. We have a dry heat up in Kansas. You have a whole bunch of humidity here. You sweat so much down here. Other than that, it's about the same. I just can't see my mom every day. And definitely more palm trees and more water.
What is this about you assigning nicknames to your teammates? Do they know about it, and what's the funniest one?
Oh, they know. I'd say the funniest one right now is (safety) Jermaine Phillips. I nicknamed him C-7. That's one of our defenses where he's on the backside and he comes down into the box. You ever noticed how when linebackers are in the box they have that linebacker stance? If you watch Flip walk around the building, why does he always look like he's getting ready to tackle somebody? He's got his shoulders slumped over and everything. I told him, "Hey, you don't always have to look like you're in the box, man."
Have you had an embarrassing or eye-opening NFL moment yet?
Actually, my first embarrassing moment was the (personal foul) against Matt Ryan. What was embarrassing about it was being on the (screen crawl) on ESPN. I got all these calls and texts from people asking me, "Man, what are you doing down there?"
Here's one of my weekly questions: What's on your iPod?
Mostly R&B. I like Lil' Wayne, too. A lot of people probably think it's bad music, but if you really listen to his words, you can relate that stuff to a lot of things in life. I really like to listen to that before games.
What Web site do you visit most?
I'm on Facebook and Myspace. I try to stay in touch with a lot of people. That's a good way to stay in touch with people who I either don't want to have my number or something like that. But really, I'm on sneakerhead.com a lot. That's my thing. Any kind of shoe you can think of. But, for the most part, I have a lot of (Nike) Air Force 1s. All day.
You must have all the different styles and designs. How many we talking about?
I don't even know. Probably 30 or 40 pairs.
Have you worn them all? And what's the pair that is the most bizarre and hard to match?
I think so. I've probably worn them all once or twice, at least. As for the ones I have trouble matching, I'd say it's a pair that's like sky blue and pink. And they have some flower designs on them, too. It's a man's shoe. I don't know. I just liked the design on it at the time. And I had a shirt to match it. I try to wear them, but I can't. I don't have anything to match.
You're not a big guy, which makes it amazing you play this game. Do people believe you when you say you're an NFL player?
A lot of people don't believe me. Even if I was a superstar in this league, I probably could walk into Wal-Mart and people still wouldn't know it was me. Like Kevin Carter, if he walks in Wal-Mart, you know it's Kevin Carter. Me, they probably think I'm a Bucs fan wearing a Bucs T-shirt. It's a good thing.
What's some of the crazy stuff you've heard?
The craziest thing I've heard is when I first got to Troy. I was in the financial aid office trying to get my aid together. I told one of the ladies who worked there that I played football. The first thing she asked me was if I was a kicker. Why do I have to be a kicker just because I'm small?
I hear you and Aqib Talib roll together. What kind of trouble are you guys getting into these days?
Me and Talib play a lot of pool. He bought a pool table for his house, and we could play for hours and hours. Now, never mind that neither one of us can really play. That's the thing. We act like we can.
Aqib looks like he talks a lot of smack. True or false?
All day. He's just like I am. With both of us in a room together, it's just crazy.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at email@example.com.