Tales from behind the scenes with these famous pals
Posted: Thursday October 13, 2005 4:22PM; Updated: Sunday October 16, 2005 12:36AM
Nick Lachey and Matt Leinart are friends, but the pair won't be roomates anytime soon.
Peter Read Miller
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He won't admit it, but Matt Leinart is a celebrity. Every time he promises that he's just another "normal guy," he reminds me of that straight-A student who hides his test whenever he gets it back and tries to join the rest of the students in complaining about how hard it was. Whatever, Matty, we all know you scored a 100, so stop playing.
But that's Leinart. You'll never see him hogging the spotlight or patting himself on the back after a big game. He'll always find someone else to praise, someone else to thank, someone else to take the credit. Even after he won the Heisman trophy he asked every finalist and their family members to come celebrate with him at Marquee, a hot New York nightclub, afterwards. "You guys deserve this just as much as I do," he told them.
When Sports Illustrated on Campus was putting together their first A-List issue last month, it was pretty clear who should be the focal point of the list and our cover boy. When I first brought up the idea to Matt he wasn't even sure what the A-List was, which I guess is like Bill Gates not knowing what the Forbes 400 is. The problem with putting a guy like that on top of the list, and more important on the cover, is he doesn't really want the honor. It's not that he doesn't appreciate it, but posing in front of Tommy Trojan in his uniform with the Song Girls by his side just isn't his cup of tea.
So instead of putting the spotlight squarely on Matt, we decided to put him at ease and put it on he and one of his buddies. In this case, that would be Nick Lachey. Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking. Nick Lachey?! Which I guess is a good thing or bad thing depending upon how your voice fluctuates on the final syllable of Lachey. Either way, there's no denying Mr. Jessica Simpson's A-List status these days --- even if much of it is predicated on whether his marriage is on or off. He and Leinart became fast friends ever since meeting at Guy's, a trendy bar in Beverly Hills, two years ago and we knew the two of them would make for a pretty cool interview and cover.
What we couldn't have predicted were the rumors that circulated following the photo shoot, which took place secretly in the basement of Heritage Hall, USC's athletic facilities. After the shoot, Nick and his brother Drew hung around campus and talked with Leinart before he went up for his weekly press conference. The sighting of Leinart and Lachey chilling on campus drove the school's already fast-paced rumor mill into overdrive. Was Lachey scoping out college girls? Was Leinart going to form new boy band with the Lachey brothers? The mind wanders. Former USC football captain turned radio star Petros Papadakis even joined in the fun, starting his own rumor that Lachey was leaving Jessica and moving in with Leinart.
The next day Us Weekly hit newsstands with their famous "Split!" cover featuring Nick and Jessica, and Papadakis fielded calls from every celebrity rag from Us to Star, who wanted to find out what he knew. "It was just a joke," Papadakis said this week. People magazine even sent a reporter to ask Leinart questions about his living arrangements and love life as beat reporters tried to sneak in the occasional query about Saturday's game. "It's the stupidest rumor I've ever heard," he said. "It's a joke." It sure was, but as Leinart's finding out, even jokes turn into stories when you're a celebrity. And yes, Matt you are a celebrity.
Whenever you do a long Q&A for a magazine, there is always going to be dialogue that is going to cut before it goes to press. Thanks to the Internet, however, we are able to bring a few interesting tidbits from SIOC's chat with Leinart and Lachey that didn't make it past the cutting room floor.
SIOC: You've had some big decisions to make recently. Is Nick one of the guys you go to when you need advice?
Leinart: I actually talked to him quite a bit. When I was making my decision, I called him. I talked to a lot of people, but I just wanted to hear different people's advice. It's just one of those things where you want to get as many opinions as possible. Nick told me just to have fun and do what was best for me. When I made my decision to come back I know he was happy. I really love college and it's not about the fame and the money and all that it's about me being a kid and staying in school and having a good time.
Lachey: I remember him asking me about that. I can actually remember a conversation I had with Matt early on when I first met him and he had said he talked to Carson (Palmer) and got good advice from him about how college is a once in a lifetime experience and your never going have anything quite like that after you leave so enjoy every second of it. So all I really told him was don't listen to what other people say, do what's right for you.
SIOC: So what about your Hollywood image these days?
Leinart: I have no Hollywood image. Believe me I don't. But some people think so and I guess it's their job to spot people out and put them in magazines.
Lachey: He's got his eyes squarely focused on where it needs to be and what he needs to be doing and there's nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits that go with it. I think he's just enjoying going out occasionally and enjoying everything that comes with his status. There's nothing wrong with that. A lot has been made of him hanging with celebrities, but he hangs with his friends and I happen to be a friend and Jessica happens to be a friend and a lot has been made of that but there's a genuine friendship there.
SIOC: So do Jessica and Brynn (Cameron, Matt's girlfriend) hang out with you guys too?
Lachey: No, not really. Matt's been over to the house a few times and Jessica knows him. She's met Brynn too a couple of times but they don't hang out. It's usually just the boys when we hang out.
Leinart: Yeah, I mean I know Jessica. We've all had dinner and have hung out, but most of the time when we hang out, it's usually me and Nick. We'll go to an Angels game or Nick will have a guys night out with all his buddies and we'll just hang out. He's super busy and I've been super busy with the season, but it's always fun when we get together.
SIOC: Nick, is it true you once tried out for the USC football team?
Lachey: Yeah, I got so embarrassed and was so out of my league that I just quit after a week. I'm dating myself, but John Robinson had just come back to coach the team. It was his first spring ball and I went out just for the heck of it. They put me at tailback and Charles White was the coach, it was crazy. This was on the team that had Rob Johnson, Willie McGinest and Johnnie Morton. I had no chance; I'd never played organized ball before, not even in high school.
Leinart: Nick Lachey. The man, the myth, the legend.