Hey, Tony Cherico, you good-time Arkansas noseguard extraordinaire, nice fall day, huh?
"I like this weather! Pretty positive day! Pretty positive! Sun shining. Practice in a few minutes. But I'd rather be out watching girls. All those aluminum bleachers there, all the way around the stadium, see those? Girls lie out on them and sunbathe in the spring, right while we're practicing. Day-um! Just like roasting chicken. This is the chicken capital of the world, you know. There are chickens everywhere. Take some back roads around Fayetteville and tell me you don't smell chickens. Tyson's and George's are the big brands. Hey, they make McNuggets from Tyson's!
"One summer I was working at a Cornish hen plant, the most exhilarating job I've ever had. Boxes came by on a belt, stuffed with processed hens. My machine turned the box and glued the flaps down. For six hours every night I was supposed to keep the machine from getting clogged up and keep it full of glue. This lady I was working with was reading Harlequin Romances, you know, those things with damsels on the covers. So I started reading them, and pretty soon I was hooked. One a night. They just tease you though, they never go for the kill, know what I mean?
"At another chicken place they had me and three other guys painting a fence. They said, 'Here's a hundred gallons of paint, go to it.' The fence took off over pastures and down roads and into the distance, on and on and on. We could never see the end of it, and, man, you think some football practices will never end? Day-um! We were painting the Never-Ending-Fence.
"I've always been full of energy. I like to talk. The writers in the Southwest Conference voted me their Interview of the Year last year, which was nice. And David Casstevens of
The Dallas Morning News
even said I was his favorite player in the conference. Those guys know I'll answer all their boring questions, I'll answer the same question over and over again, I'll be a ham. I'm not in it for awards or pro ball or any of that stuff. If they need something different, me and J.R. will provide it. My roommate, J.R. Brown, is a zoology major and a running back on the team. You'll have to meet him. He's the guy who brought in Agnes and all these other animals—huh? Oh, Agnes was our six-foot boa constrictor, I'll get to her.... Anyway, J.R. and I, we'll provide a fresh approach to a lot of things. I mean, if this game isn't fun, then why do it?
"We got killed by Miami, 51-7, a few weeks ago, and I saw double teams, triple teams, misdirection, all this unorthodox stuff teams are doing to keep me out. People wonder why my stats are down after I was named Defensive Newcomer of the Year in the conference in 1984 and
The Sporting News
picked me this preseason as the best noseguard in the country. [In fact, Cherico has been named to the all-Southwest Conference team each of the last two seasons and was a second-team All-America in 1986.] But, man, other teams are game-planning me. They're letting me fly out and take myself out of the plays now. They're position-blocking me. I'm getting chop blocks. I'm getting picked up by backside linemen, by running backs. I got chopped by a quarterback once on a counter. Day-um!
"I know what they say about nose-guards. The guy with the Browns, Bob Golic, said, 'Being a noseguard is like being a fire hydrant at a dog show.' But I'd get out if it ever became just a job. It's got to stay fun, or why take the steady beating? I'd like to play pro ball, but if I don't I'm not going to get suicidal.
"As a kid I was kind of hyperactive. They wanted to put me on medication in kindergarten, but my dad said, 'No, let him become a drug addict on his own.' I just couldn't sit still, I had to be busy. But I wasn't a bully. In fact, I remember in first grade, I lipped off to some third-graders, and they beat me up. So I was always terrified of third-graders. But the worst time in my life was sixth grade at the Madeleine School in Portland, Oregon. I was getting in trouble—rubber band fights, spit wads, toilet paper fights—and I'd get punished and have to stay in at recess. Three recesses a day. God, how I missed those! I needed recess. I got to high school, and it was total culture shock. What, it's 10 o'clock and no recess? You mean, there's no recess?
"In grammar school there was this nun who looked at me funny and said, 'I'm going to break you.' I'd have to write 'I will not talk' 500 times, so I'd write pages of that stuff before I got in trouble and then hand it in when needed. So then she'd make me copy a dictionary page, and you couldn't prepare for that. But the worst was copying the entire Book of John. Day-um! That was prison. I had hand cramps. Day after day, I'd look out on the playground and almost cry. She broke me. She had me under control. Sort of.
"Then we moved to Kansas City, and I went to Shawnee Mission Northwest High School. My dad's life of crime had a lot to do with our moving around so much. Seriously, he works for the Southern Pacific railroad as a supervisor, and I grew up in five different cities. I have two younger brothers and a younger sister, but none of them are really like me. At this point I was doing pretty good in football, but then another problem popped up. I started noticing girls. Uh-oh. But I was also big into baseball, which was probably the biggest disappointment to my dad. He was a real good basketball player in high school, and he thought I'd be good in basketball, too, the second coming of Larry Bird. It took me two years to learn a layup.