lines the tools of his trade along a narrow table: helmet, shoulder pads, thigh
and knee pads, gloves, cleats, football pants and jersey. He is here on his off
day, in the room at the Chicago Bears' practice facility where the offensive
line usually meets, to tape his weekly segment for Chicago's Telemundo
affiliate. The piece, in which he explains the basics of American football to
Telemundo's Spanish-speaking audience, is called Yarda por Yarda con Roberto
"Ready?" asks Garza.
"Ready," says the cameraman, who turns on his camera light and begins
rolling. Garza stares at the camera and freezes.
Then he breaks up
laughing. Perhaps he was not so ready after all.
Oscar Guzm�n, the
Telemundo sports anchor who is producing the shoot, smiles. "The bloopers
are the best part," Guzm�n says. "We have lots of bloopers."
It's easy for
Garza to laugh these days. The Bears are off to their best start since their
Super Bowl season of 1985. The afternoon before, Chicago had dominated the
Buffalo Bills 40--7, and he had played well. On pass plays Garza stood up the
Bills' defensive tackles, giving quarterback Rex Grossman plenty of time to
throw. On running plays he often paved the way, opening holes for running backs
Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson.
But tell the
27-year-old right guard that he played well, and he's likely to argue the
point. Garza is always thinking about the little things he could have done
better. In football big men hit other big men, but first they must master
complicated schemes. The bewildering diagrams and jargon scrawled on the
whiteboards in the linemen's meeting room are a reminder of that
But for all of
Garza's intricate knowledge of football, his lesson this week on Yarda por
Yarda couldn't be more basic. He is explaining the equipment he wears and why
he wears it.
some have been here [in the U.S.] two years, some two weeks," Guzman says.
"They don't know this game." Garza and Guzman came up with the idea of
doing these tutorials over a get-to-know-you dinner last year. It makes sense
because Garza is the perfect person to introduce the NFL to the Telemundo
audience. A son of Mexican immigrants, he was drawn to football before he even
knew what it was.
Garza grew up in
Rio Hondo, a town of about 2,000 in the southern tip of Texas, just 20 minutes
north of the Mexican border. His parents, Roberto and Ofelia, had emigrated
from Mexico just after they were married and settled in Rio Hondo because
Roberto already had family living there. A year after they arrived, they had
their first of four children, Roberto Jr.
The elder Roberto
drove a tractor and Ofelia worked as a janitor. The family lived just down the
street from Rio Hondo High. Their house was close enough that Roberto Jr. could
hear the roars and see the lights that illuminated the night sky on fall
Fridays. He was fascinated even before he understood what was causing all the
Soon he learned.
Garza's uncle Juan was a fan of American football; he would come over on
Sundays to watch Dallas Cowboys games on television, and when his nephew was
six he started taking Roberto to the high school on Friday nights to watch the
games through a chain link fence. "I was mesmerized," Garza says.