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A joker, a rapper and a military man

You have the Falcons on tap this week. You went to school with Michael Vick. How well do you know each other?

When I got to Virginia Tech, it was his redshirt freshman year. So we stepped on the field together. I also had two years there with (Falcons cornerback) DeAngelo Hall and (Falcons guard) Matt Lehr, and I played a year with (Falcons rookie cornerback) Jimmy Williams, too. With Mike, in college, we were really tight. Now, he's got a lot on his plate. It's not hi and bye with us. It's still a good relationship. But I mean, he's Mike Vick. He's a little busy.

Being from Virginia, I wondered whether you played high school ball against Mike.

He's from Newport News, so I didn't play against him. But my first time meeting Mike was when him, myself and (ex-Bears receiver) David Terrell were all on the same All-Star team.

Please tell me you won.

No doubt. It was a blowout. (Vikings defensive back) Ronyell Whitaker was on that team, too. We said we could beat any All-Star team in the country with that team.

How did college help you ma-ture?

Well, that did help. But I'll tell you what: Going to Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) really made me grow up. Coming out of high school, you're the man when you're playing high school football. But when things don't go well for you (academically) in high school and you can't go right to college, that really, really humbles you. People forget about you. You're off the map for a year. Everybody was saying, "What happened to Anthony?" That really got me ready for things I was going to face in life.

Military school sounds intimidating.

Some of those military schools really are. We had uniforms and all that, but they didn't really pound us like they did at some schools. But we had some great athletes there. When I went to military school, (Saints defensive end) Charles Grant was there. And Josh Howard from the Dallas Mavericks, he was a real good friend of mine at Hargrave.

You have a lot of tattoos. Any of them mean anything in particular?

I had a lot when I first got into the league, but I've added a lot since I got here. I don't know. I just go in the (tattoo parlor) and pick something out. I just like the artwork in it. It's just something I'm in to.

How many do you have?

I have about 11 all together. I like tattoos. A guy like Kenyatta (Walker), he likes jewelry. We go back and forth on this all the time. I like tattoos, and he likes buying expensive platinum jewelry. But the way I see it, you can only wear one watch at a time, and he has like a million. Me, I can wear all my tattoos at the same time.

Offensive linemen have a reputation for being, well, different. Is that fair?

No, it's true. But maybe that's why we're a close-knit group. We're the engine that makes things go. We are close. We have dinner together every week. (Last week was Ruth's Chris Steakhouse). We have a great group, and we have great leaders, like John Wade, a guy who's been in the league a long time.

The other linemen say you are a big joker. Can you elaborate?

I'm not a practical joker. I just crack jokes. I'm pretty quick, too. And now with Cornell Green back here, sometimes it gets a little heated in there. But it's all in fun. You know, I watch a lot of TV, so I'll refer to some of the guys as people I see on TV.

Now you have to name names.

John Wade, that's (cartoon character) Jimmy Neutron. And Sean Mahan, he's Tom Arnold. Cornell Green is Forest Whitaker. Kenyatta, he's Waldo from Family Matters.

At some point, somebody must give you a taste of your own stuff. Can you take it?

Oh, yeah. I mean, John Wade always calls me Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. We just keep it inside our little group.

Tell me about your family.

I grew up in a single-parent home, my mom working two jobs. It was, unfortunately, the typical black athlete story. But she raised me right. I'll never be able to pay her back. But she always tells me that me doing all that I'm doing is payback enough.

You must have learned a lot from watching your mom try to make ends meet, right?

Oh, yeah. I learned how to be strong. And I've faced a lot of adversity through my career, like coming out of high school and not qualifying and having to go to military school. Then I wasn't drafted and had to come in here and pay my dues. I just learned how to deal with those things. Hard work and determination will take you far.

Kenyatta says you fancy yourself as a rapper, but he has some doubts about your skills.

It's hard to talk about music with somebody like Kenyatta because what does he know. He's from the South, and he's a bumpity-bump type of guy, a car-booming-down-the-block type of guy. I'm more of a lyrical guy.

So do you have a demo tape?

I have done some real stuff with some guys back home, actually putting it on a CD. But that's not something I can be concerned with now. They want me focused on football around here, and that's what I'm doing. The guys are pushing that for me back home, getting certain people to listen to it. Then in the offseason I'll catch up with them. For them, it's serious. For me, it's more about fun.

If I got your demo tape in front of, say, a big-time rap producer like Jay-Z, would he give you a record deal?

Considering what I'm hearing on the radio now and what people consider hip-hop now, I know I could probably get signed, too. Now that's just my opinion. But you have a lot of guys out there now who swear they can rap. But then again, people might not be looking for what I do. All the stuff I hear is just catchy music that you can dance to. I'm definitely lyric heavy with my music.

Do rappers get a bad rap in the media?

Well, kind of. Then again, a lot of what is said is true. You know what? It's about 50-50.

The Bucs linemen - and their alter egos?

John Wade and Jimmy Neutron? Sean Mahan and Tom Arnold? Cornell Green and Forest Whitaker? Kenyatta Walker and Waldo from Family Matters? Anthony Davis and Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Bucs offensive tackle Anthony Davis took some time last week to chat with Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder about military school, Tom Arnold and ... Jimmy Neutron?