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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Big family man, wrestling fan
Could you imagine Chris Hovan - a defensive tackle covered in tattoos and war paint - trading in his Escalade for a minivan? That might soon be his reality.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER, Times Staff Writer
Published December 16, 2007
Defensive tackle Chris Hovan admires what wrestlers and mixed martial arts fighters can do.
[Chris Zuppa | Times]
[Brian Cassella | Times]
Chris Hovan originated his triangle-patterned facepaint while in college at Boston College, unintentionally. After a great game and several postgame compliments, he decided to keep the look.
Your son, Christopher, is 9 months old, and I understand he's about to be joined by twin girls.
Yeah. It was weird. It happened on the first try. I guess God blessed us. There's a funny story about it, too. We were at practice when my wife was at the doctor, and she couldn't get hold of me to tell me. So she called Todd (Toriscelli), the trainer. She told him, "Tell Chris to do the next play for his twins." So Todd relayed the message, and I was just awestruck all through practice. It was a whole range of emotions when I found out. Shock, happiness, worried, stressed out - all at the same time. But it's great. It's the best feeling in the world.
What kind of practice did you have that day?
Actually, I had some really good plays, and I had some really bad plays. I'd sometimes drift and start thinking, "Wow, we're really having twins?" And then you'd snap out of it like, "Oh, man, what am I doing?" I told her, "Jaimi, don't ever tell me that before a game." I was thinking about all kind of things - two car seats. Well, actually, three car seats. I guess I have to get an extended SUV now. She's already telling me she doesn't have enough room.
How well does Christopher sleep at night, and how do you think it'll be when the twins arrive?
He sleeps good. But, at first, he was always hungry. He's got a lot in common with his dad. It's funny, though. I get up every morning at 5. But he'll get up at 4:30, I think just to deprive me of that last half-hour. You're like, "No, not yet!" With the twins, I guess it'll be like a chain reaction.
You're really just a bystander here. This has to be pretty tough on your wife, I suppose.
My wife is the biggest trooper. In football terms, she'd be referred to as a warrior. To give birth to three children in less than a year has to say a lot about her. But she's my everything. A great mother, a great wife. I can't say enough about her. Life was kind of meaningless before I met her.
You've always taken an interest in wrestling and mixed martial arts. How did you get into that circle?
When I played in Minnesota, a lot of wrestlers trained there. Hawk, Animal, Scott Hall, Nature Boy was there for a while. So, I became friends with Brock Lesnar, who at the time was the big thing in the WWE. He was getting a little tired of that lifestyle and wanted to get into football. When he tried out for the Vikings, we spent a lot of time together, and I met a lot of people in that circle. It's a tight group. As for ultimate fighting, that's always been a passion since high school. I love to watch mixed martial arts. It's kind of my release.
People admire the feats of football players. Do you likewise admire the things wrestlers and mixed martial arts fighters can do?
Without a doubt. And the difference with them is it's just you. It's just you and a guy in a ring. You better get him to tap out and submit before he does it to you. They're both adrenaline-driven sports.
You went to an entrepreneur training program during the offseason. How did that go, and what did you learn?
I went to the one at Kellogg (School of Management) at Northwestern University. It mainly deals with being an entrepreneur, how to start your own business, networking. It was really a great program. It was pretty much from 7 a.m. to about 10 o'clock at night. You're constantly in the classroom. But the wealth of knowledge I gained was incredible. The NFL really puts on a great program. You can go to Wharton at Penn, Stanford, Harvard or Northwestern. It really gives players a chance to develop themselves outside the game. Whether we like it or not, we can only play for so long.
What Web site do you visit most?
CNN.com. I love reading about what's going on in the world, in the financial markets. I'm not really into all that Hollywood stuff. I'm into world news. I'm constantly on there. You can't learn enough.
The face paint you wear on game day: How did that habit come about?
When I was playing at Boston College, we were playing at Georgia Tech my junior year. It was about 120 degrees. I put some eye black on really heavy. I go out and warm up, and I'm just sweating like crazy. I guess I put on too much because it was getting in my eyes, so I kept wiping it off. But what I really did was smear it and make upside down triangles - unintentionally. So, I go out there and have a great game: three sacks and a bunch of tackles. All I heard after that was the broadcasters saying I was wearing war paint. And my teammates liked the look and said it was a look I should stick with. But I've always given (former Vikings lineman) John Randle credit. He's the originator of violence. I just put my own little spin on it, and it's stuck with me.
Position: Defensive tackle
Height, weight: 6-2, 296 pounds
College: Boston College. All-American as a senior in 1999 ... named All-Big East three times.
Pro: First-round pick of Minnesota (25th overall) in 2000 ... joined Bucs as a free agent in 2005 ... led defensive line in tackles in 2005 and 2006 with 64 and 78, respectively.