Like most fullbacks not named Alstott, the Bucs' Jerald Sowell doesn't get recognized much when he goes out in public. So we figured we would give everyone a chance to get to know the former Jet. He sat down with Stephen F. Holder to talk about everything from his passion for bass fishing to Curtis Martin's closet.
Fullback has to be the most anonymous position in football. Do you like being in the shadows?
I like being in the cut. I don't like the limelight. I've been in this position my whole career. As a fullback, you really don't get the credit. Tailbacks get the glory. We do the dirty work. We're an extension of the offensive line, really.
Ironically, you were a big-time runner at Tulane, right?
Yeah. We played the one-back offense, and I just played fullback in the two-back (set). But I did most of the running and even some receiving. I got most of the touches.
You ever miss getting all those carries?
At first I did, but I just learned to adjust. Besides, you can't pout. What are you going to do?
What are you going to do with yourself during the bye next week?
Well, you will definitely see me on the golf course. I play a lot of golf with Anthony Becht and Matt Bryant. But I stored my boat for the season, so I can't go fishing. I love to bass fish. But I know one thing: I'm going to get my mind off football.
How dangerous are you on the lakes?
I consider myself a professional angler. Oh yeah. I'm really, really good. I use artificial bait and all. Me and my friends go all the time. But those lakes in Dallas (where he lives) are tough compared to Florida. You go to Lake Okeechobee, there's so many bass that you can just toss a line out there and get a bite. But you have to really know what you're doing when you hit those lakes in Dallas.
You went from New York to Tampa. Sounds like a big transition.
It is. New York has the best of both worlds. You have this huge city that's great for shopping. There's so many people, a lot of contacts. But I didn't live in the city. Tampa is a little more small town compared to that. But that's what I like. I would go to (Manhattan), but I didn't go often. I'm a little too laid-back for that.
I hear not many people know that you were valedictorian of your high school class.
Oh yeah. You did your research. I had straight A's all through high school. My GPA was a little over 4.0 with my honors classes.
How did you pull that off and have all the athletic success, too?
It's not easy. But growing up, my parents stressed academics before athletics. Me and my older brother, all we wanted to do was play ball. But my mom, she was a teacher, and my dad taught a little bit, too. The rule was if you didn't do well in school, you don't play. Period. And we loved to play, so we did what we had to do.
So you were going to be a doctor or engineer if you weren't in the NFL?
I would be working in exercise physiology. I majored in exercise science and kinesiology. I thought about going to (physical therapy) school. Now that's what my wife does.
You went to college in New Orleans. Have you been back since Hurricane Katrina?
I went back in February, shortly after the season ended. It didn't look too good. There were blue tarps on all the houses. Over in uptown, where the campus is, all the stop signs are gone. The restaurants are all closed. The grocery stores, nothing is open. It's a total wreck. And to be honest, the media is not doing any justice to what's really going on there.
Well, what I've seen on the news is pretty bad.
Yeah. It's even worse. The campus, it's intact, but a lot of it needs work. As for the surrounding areas, those people have nowhere to go.
Will New Orleans ever be the same?
No, I don't think so. It would take a long, long time. And you'd have to get the people back. In New Orleans, it's the people that made that city. Once the people left, not just anybody can come there and make New Orleans what it was.
What were your first impressions of Jon Gruden?
You know, when I first met him, it seemed like he was always on edge.
Kind of like he had too much coffee, right?
Exactly. When he talks to you, he likes to hit you. He almost did that with the president the other day. But you know, I always wanted to see the Chucky face up close, and I did pretty early.
In New York, you were blocking for a guy, Curtis Martin, who was a smooth dresser. You seem more like the T-shirt-and-jeans type.
That's me: jeans. But, hey, I can still make it look good because I rock the Kangol (hat) with it. I got that from Curtis. It's a nice touch. You can be low-key but still have a nice look. But I do have my suits in my closet, too. When I want to do that, I can do that.
Last one: Jets fans or Bucs fans?
You know what? I have to keep it real: Bucs fans. They stick with you. The first sign that something is going wrong, the Jets fans are booing. And here, the stands were full in the preseason. You would never see the stands full in New York for the preseason. They're fair-weather fans, and everybody's an armchair quarterback. They're tough.