August 22, 2007

10 Questions with Football's Luke Siwula

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Originally published October 19, 2006

After the football team’s 38-14 win over Colgate at Homecoming, junior first-team All-Ivy running back Luke Siwula tossed Paul Testa the game ball. Testa’s still trying to recover his fumble.

1. What are you going to be for Halloween?

I have an idea, but I don’t have my finger on it yet. The past two years, I’ve gone with a little mustache thing. Freshman year, I went as your stereotypical hombre, with a pancho and sombrero.

I see you’re already in mustache training again.

In the preseason [senior Patrick] Blakemore and I had a little mustache grow-off.

Who won?

He dominated me.

Blakemore doesn’t seem like the mustache type.

He rocked it for a good month in the preseason.

Have you ever thought of keeping the mustache going into the season? Sort of a power ’stache if you will?

I have. I’ve dabbled with it here and there, but it always comes down to the point where I look in the mirror, and I go, “I can’t go on looking like this.”

You know what you need to do? You need the Salvador Dali handlebar mustache. No one would touch you running through the line.

I don’t have the connectors, though. That’s my problem.

That’s my problem too! It’s embarrassing. I just end up looking like some sleazy 1970’s porn star.

[Awkward pause.]

So, um, Mustache Man, eh?

Yeah, that was my costume last year; I was just straight Mustache Man. Actually, Moostache Man. Last year, it was kind of just a last minute thing. We got back from our game at around 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. I didn’t really know what I was going to do for a costume. So, I threw on a pair of tights, a little cap, a nice little hat and huge mustache.

2. You’ve been here since the start of head coach Jim Knowles ’87’s tenure. How has the program developed under his leadership?

I’m real close with all the seniors on the team this year. Their freshman year, they were 1-9, and half their class quit right there. There was no enthusiasm, no excitement to be around. The coach, he just didn’t provide the motivation and the things needed to get out there and want to play every day.

How is it different now?

Coach Knowles has been great. He’s probably one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around. He does an awesome job just lighting a fire under everyone to get everyone going.

I saw that 1-9 season, and now it seems like you guys go out every game with a chance to win.

Yeah, he just brings so much creative stuff and so many creative ways to get everybody motivated.

You’ve got five Ivy games left. What are the chances you guys are going to win out?

We’re looking at it one week at time, but we have a strong belief in our team. We feel like the losses that have come this year have been at the hands of ourselves. They’ve come from our own errors and our own lack of performance.

Sort of like Cardinals against the Bears, maybe?

Exactly. We have complete confidence that we can come in and beat every single team these next five games.

3. Tell me about the tight ends coach Zac Roper, because the past two years have seen sort of a renaissance of Cornell’s offense.

Before you give him too much credit, our running backs coach last year was Ricky Rahne [’02]. He’s a legend around campus. He holds like every record for quarterbacks here at Cornell. So he had a lot to do with the success of last year, but coach Roper’s done a great job of expanding on that and getting more technical with everything we do.

Roper’s originally from Knoxville, Tenn., right?

Yeah, he graduated from Mississippi.

So does he bring a special brand of southern wisdom, maybe a little southern comfort to his coaching style

He brings a lot of southern obscenities.

Such as?

I don’t want to call him out right here. [Senior running back] Shayne Kilcoyne does a great impression of him.

What’s a signature Roper phrase?

He likes to drop the one syllable “abllsht.” It comes out so quick, like a cough.

I didn’t realize that was linguistically possible.

4. How would you describe your style as a running back? Would you call yourself a north-south kind of guy?

Yeah, completely.

It must be pretty nice just to be able to slap your hand on a blocker’s ass and pound it up the middle.

[Pause of stunned disbelief.]
Well, uh, I don’t know about that, but it is nice getting behind 300 lbs. of large man, if you will.

Kevin Boothe [’06] was a beast.

Yeah, Kevin Boothe exactly. I was just watching his game on Sunday night [with the Raiders], and I couldn’t believe that he was blocking for me last year. He was just completely dominating everybody that he was going against.

How much do you miss that presence this year?

He definitely hasn’t gone unnoticed. Any time you needed three, four, 25 yards, you could just run behind Kevin. But we still have four guys back, and they’re just awesome.

Do you do anything special for the offensive line? Maybe a card or something?

I make them breakfast.

What does the Luke Siwula breakfast entail?

It’s the works. Omelet, over easy eggs, scrambled eggs, and there’s always pancakes. Lineman love pancakes. That’s one thing I’ve learned.

5. You’ve got a sophomore, Nate Ford, starting at quarterback. How do you think he’s done stepping into this pressure role?

He’s done awesome. Last year, we had Ryan Kuhn [’06], who was Cornell’s first ever first-team All-Ivy quarterback, and Ford’s just come in and made the transition so seamlessly for us. He’s provided so many other intangibles that maybe Ryan didn’t bring to the table.

I knew Nate from covering baseball last year, and he seemed like a pretty solid guy. What’s you’re impression of him as a person. Is he someone you’d bring home to mother?

He’s the kind of person I’d let my little sister date, and I don’t say that about to many people. I’m a pretty protective older brother.

Dude, I’m staying away from your little sister.

6. Unlike the sprint football team, you guys get to really do the whole training table experience. What’s a pre-game meal like for the team?

It’s the same thing every week: Turkey dinner. It’s Thanksgiving every week.

What’s you’re favorite part of the turkey dinner?

My favorite part? I’m going to have to say the Caesar salad actually.

[Scoffs.]
Caesar salad? You’re kidding me. That’s not part of the turkey dinner. What about the stuffing? You’ve got to like stuffing.

I mean, it just gets so bland. It’s just the same stuff every week.

Who caters it for you? Cornell Dining?

It’s a mystery on the team. We have the same stuff every week. No matter where we go, no matter what town we’re in, we have the same exact thing. It always looks the same, and it always tastes the same.

Do you get bored?

Yeah, we’d like to throw in a little chicken here and there. Maybe a little chicken parm. That’d be delicious.

Maybe for Brown this weekend. Chicken parm may be just the thing to put you guys over the top.

I’m going to have to put you on the horn for that one.

I make a pretty mean chicken parm.

7. Let’s talk about your roots because you’re sort of a homegrown product. You grew up just 30 minutes away in Homer, N.Y., or is it Cortland?

Technically, the area code’s Cortland, but I’m definitely from Homer.

Do they even have a football team?

[Scoffs.]
Yeah, they have a great football team. They won the section last year and lost in states. We’re not a state perennial power, but from year in and year out, we’re competing in the playoffs.

What’s it like going to school so close to home? Do you do your laundry or just drop the garbage bag off on Mom’s porch?

It’s probably the best thing ever. My mom, within the first couple of weeks after the Saturday games, was picking up my laundry and bringing it back to me on Monday.

That’s fantastic. I do the same thing. My parents live on that hill over there [points to that hill over there].

Yeah, I don’t pay for my gas too often either.

Grocery shopping too! Your parents are never going to let you starve.

Exactly.

I tried for about a year and half to do my own laundry, and I just realized that I’m never going to be able to do it as well as my mom does.

It’s the folding. I can throw it in and take it out, but the folding. I can’t get the creases. It’s terrible.

8. I assume you know they’re making a Rocky VI. Did you consider auditioning for the role of a young Rocky Balboa?

I actually have a little bit of an acting past if you believe me.

Really? What was your breakout role?

I was the young Phantom of the Opera in a county repertory theater.

You’re kidding me. Did you sing?

I sung a little. I busted out the soprano voice. I can still hit it too.

Yeah? Prove it.

[With the voice of an angel]
“Laaa, lalala, la …” Yeah, maybe not quite like it was before.

If this football thing doesn’t work out, there’s always Broadway. But back to the hard-hitting stuff, what’s your favorite Rocky movie?

It’s definitely got to be Rocky III.

That’s a good choice with Mr. T and all. I go back and forth between Rocky III and IV.

I think I’ve seen Rocky IV too many times though.

But, like, Rocky single handedly brought down Communism.

That speech at the end gets me teary eyed every time.

Which one has the robot in it? That just kills me.

That’s Rocky IV.

So what do you think about Rocky VI, blockbuster or bust?

Bust.

9. Do you get a lot of comparisons to the Italian Stallion?

That’s funny that you bring up the Rocky thing because in high school there was this kid that was more of an epitome of Rocky than I was. His name was actually Brock, Brock Catalano, and people would always call him Rocky. I never got it once till I came to college.

It’s tough to escape high school nicknames. My last name’s Testa, and no one ever called me Paul on any team that I played on.

I think I’m doing a little better than that with my nickname. Ryan Kuhn actually came up with it last year. He started calling me “sweaty pants.”

Sweaty pants? I mean, you seem pretty cool, calm and collected here.

No, I came out to practice one day, and instead of wearing my football pants, I wore sweatpants. I don’t know if you ever met Ryan Kuhn but he’s kind of goof himself and he thought it was just the funniest thing to call me sweaty pants. I kind of got a little pissed off, and before you knew it he kept calling me sweaty pants to get on my nerves and it caught on. Hopefully, it doesn’t stick that well.

Talcum powder does wonders.

10. What’s the hottest women’s varsity team at Cornell?

[Strokes chin.]
This takes a lot of deliberation. I don’t think there’s a clear-cut winner. There’s a lot of fine looking lady athletes out there.

I like the rubbing of the chin; you’re a connoisseur of fine looking athletes.

[Laughing.]
Yeah, but if I had to narrow it down to one, I’d go with women’s track.

Wow! Do you like ice cream and puppies too? Women’s track seems to be the consensus choice among male athletes. What’s your reasoning?

It’s just the finely fit, athletically toned bodies. They run all the time.

Do you think you could beat them in the 40-yard dash?

Yeah, I could beat them in a 40, but anything over a mile, no chance.

Ten Questions with Sun Assistant Sports Editor Paul Testa will appear every Thursday this semester unless Testa gets caught hitting on Siwula’s little sister. Comments and suggestions can be sent to pft4@cornell.edu.