||Wednesday, January 1
The world according to Romberg
By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN The Magazine
TEMPE, Ariz. -- On behalf of all media hacks covering college football, I hereby petition the NCAA to grant Miami fifth-year center Brett Romberg another season of eligibility. In fact, make it seven. No, eight. Do this one little favor and we'll quit with the NCAA rule book jokes.
Romberg not only is this season's Rimington Award winner (best center) and first-team consensus All-America, but he's also the recipient of the prestigious, but yet little-known Warren Sapp (as in yap) Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation's most quotable Division I-A football player. And as soon as I get $28 to buy a trophy at the swap shop, I'm going to ship the thing to Romberg.
For one hour I positioned myself at Romberg's side during a group interview session, turned on the Sony microcassette recorder, put freebie Marriott pen in hand and began jotting away on my borrowed wirebound notebook. Sixty minutes later my double-A batteries were begging for backup, my right hand ached and my notebook was running out of pages.
The highlights from the best Canadian import since a case of Labatt's Blue:
"He kind of fits us to the mold perfectly. He's like Ken Dorsey, but he's 120 years older, you know what I mean?"
"Coming from Windsor, Ontario, it's a little bit of difference. The women. The beach. The nightlife. You can't match that anywhere else in the country. But when I first got (to UM) there were more people at Miami Jai-Alai than there were at our games. The football program wasn't the most thought-of program in the nation. We had actors. We had movies. We had, you name it, everybody in Miami. There were a lot of things going on better than our football team in Miami when I was coming here."
"Kenny's just an all-around, good, wholesome, whitebread, crazy little white kid. He's skinny as hell and he just brings so much more to the table than just a football game. He's very respectful to his parents. He loves his family so much. That's a little more important than football, I think. He's such a good boy. His family loves him. His parents love him. And I think that's why we're doing as well -- because of who he is off the field."
"To see the clashing that goes on between me and him is totally 180-degree difference. The way he speaks. . . it's like watching "Leave It To Beaver" with him and his family. "He walks in the door and it's (Romberg does Beaver Cleaver voice): 'Hi, mom.' Kisses and hugs."
"(Mom voice): 'Hi, Kenny. How are you?'
"It's just like the regular TV show skit from the '70s and '60s. It's really fun.
"I'm Eddie Haskell. I'm totally Eddie Haskell."
"He didn't really know what he was recruiting. When I first got to the University of Miami I was shoveling my driveway four days before I got there. I love the sun. I loved it my first two or three years and then you get a little tired of it. But right before practice -- and I don't know how I did it, to tell you the truth -- I'd come right from class, throw the ol' jock on and go lay on the Astroturf that we had on the field and get about an hour of sun before I went to practice. You really don't see that too much anywhere else.
"He honestly thought I was crazy. Even as a freshman, when he'd see me, he'd yell at me a few times and do the whole thing. But he really didn't know what to think of me. I was just a crazy Canadian kid who just came down and lays around in his underwear all the time."
"Everything's kind of off limits with Kenny. . . until Jan. 3, late at night. That's when I'm going to release the hounds on him. I've got a bunch of things ready for him."
"It was awesome. You can't find better people than in Canada. Canada has the nicest people in the world. Most of them aren't even stuck on material things. It's not like we live up in the woods, or we've got to take dog sleds to school, or anything like that."
"He's a total drag, he really is. There's not a day that I'll wake up and I'll see five girls sitting on the couch -- nothing like that. I'll wake up and he'll be eating scrambled eggs on the couch with his cat sitting next to him, watching SportsCenter. That's all he does, man."
"I've actually kind of toned it down since I've been here. Sometimes on the bus I'll grab the microphone from the bus driver, turn it on and I'll just rip on about 55 of the football players that we have on this team. You know, if their breath stinks. If they're fat. (Offensive tackle) Carlos Joseph wore these tight green jogging pants and I thought he was like a fat, black Peter Pan. I told him, 'Don't worry about it, bro, it looks good on you.' It was about a half-hour of just straight ripping on each other. I think that's what a football team is all about: you can take a shot at each other and it's not going to be anything personal."
"I did work at (the) Chrysler (plant) for about two paychecks. I'm not much for work. I didn't want to stand there and put a part on a car. I kind of just didn't show up for my second week of work, my third week of work.
"I put the rear windshield wiper motor in the back of the minivan. Sometimes I put these little tabs on the front of the windshield. It was just monotonous work. I couldn't take it. I was ready to kill myself.
"If there's a recall, you know why."
"We're probably the most recognizable team in the country. We sell a lot of retail, a lot of merchandise. Nobody wants to like us, but everybody wants to wear us."
"When I first got here it was Al Blades, Edgerrin James, and just like thugged-out people, man. . . just crazy people on this team. And Nate Webster (a former UM linebacker). I've never seen anyone crazier than Nate Webster, man. I remember when we played Ohio State in the Kickoff Classic two or three years ago, we were walking out and the (OSU) punter is warming up, and Nate just ran up to the punter and I'm sure he had a few nice words to say to the guy. The punter, I thought he was going to start peeing in his pants. I was scared with what Nate said to that kid."
"I'm definitely the neat freak. I can't have any dust in my room. When ESPN came down to our house, I told Dorsey, 'Dude, don't let them in my room, because I don't know if my room is clean or not.' But they went in there anyway, and I had flowers and stuff on my table.
"Dorsey's definitely the slob of the house. I pick up after him like I'm his mom."
"I like guns and stuff, but I don't like shooting them at animals."
"Chicks love the rings. Chicks would like it (more) if it wasn't cubic zirconia. So would I. But it's good enough."
See? The NCAA has to give us a break. Either that, or I want to cover whatever NFL team drafts Romberg this spring.
Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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