Aug. 21, 2001
TURLOCK - Football is a game. Move the ball from one side of the field to the other, and try to get it into the end zone. Many thousands of fans are on hand to cheer you when you do well and boo you when you don't. What these supporters miss is training camp, 10 days in which the players are separated from their friends and families and have only each other to rely on. Before the fans comes the work in Turlock, in the midst of the summer heat, working before they get to play.
"Camps are never fun," said junior defensive tackle Daniel Nwangwu. "I just look at it as a time to get better. There's no fun in it. It's just work."
Nwangwu now understands this. Entering his third year with the team, he's considered a veteran, even though he's not yet 21. Nwangwu learned this the hard way, as so many of us do when we're younger. He did not completely understand the work aspect of the game.
Last year, Nwangwu bulked up during the offseason and checked into camp weighing a bit over 300 pounds, which is not unreasonable for a defensive tackle. It was part of an experiment by Nwangwu to attempt to play at a higher weight, and therefore be a more dominating force on the line.
Problem was, it slowed him down.
"Our philosophy here is the hit and run ... and at 300, I couldn't run," Nwangwu said. "I wanted to be heavy, but not that heavy."
Nwangwu lost some of the speed and technique that he had when he played as a true freshman in 1999. Football is a game of timing, and even if you're only a half-second late, that's too late.
The defensive tackle slimmed down this offseason, dropping his weight to around 286. He also has another season of playing time under his belt and another season of growing up. He realized that he had to work harder this summer, and in the past he did not take workouts "as seriously as I should."
Nwangwu worked out everyday during the spring and summer and as a result, has the power he was looking for at 300, but the speed of an undersized player. Despite his stature, in which he is smaller than many of the offensive linemen he faces in the trenches, Nwangwu likes playing inside, just "playing the blocks and being physical."
Nwangwu has had help along the way, as well. He came to play at Cal, leaving most of his family behind in Sugar Land, Texas. He is close to his family and admits that he might not have been able to make the move had it not been for his brother and now roommate, David, accompanying him to Berkeley.
David, who is older but smaller than Daniel, walked onto football team and played one season. But an injury knocked him off the gridiron, and David no longer plays football, but rather watches game film with his brother and helps him to read his blocks better. Using another clich?, practice makes perfect.
That was the point all along, wasn't it? "That was my main concern," David recalled, "how strong I'd be playing the blocks."
Nwangwu wants to go to law school or get an MBA after he's done playing football. But for right now, he looks every part of a confident football player. He's also having more fun in camp than he did last season.
But now it's time to get back to work.
Lyman Recovering: Sophomore wide receiver Chase Lyman underwent an appendectomy in Turlock Monday night. He was released from the hospital Tuesday morning. Lyman is expected to be out at least 10 days, meaning he likely won't be able to play until the BYU game Sept. 8.