I prefer the term interesting.
Derek DePasquale, Mississippi State's senior placekicker, is the most interesting man in the world. OK, maybe not the world, but on the team. That's why I decided to spend a few minutes with him Tuesday after practice.
First question I asked concerned the veracity of the kicker stereotype.
"You can't be too serious all the time," DePasquale said. "You've got to be focused when it's time to focus, but we're all goofy. That's how kickers are. It's not super-serious football, like yelling and cussing, it's just doing it."
Example: I was standing next to him at Saturday's scrimmage, and next to DePasquale was Chris White, the linebacker who just finished his MSU career last fall and is NFL-bound. The 5-foot-8, 180-pound DePasquale was giving White financial advice, such as how to invest his signing bonus.
White could do worse than listen to DePasquale, even if he was joking (at least I think he was). He's a self-professed nerd, making the academic all-state team as a senior at The Woodlands (Texas) High School. He's an engineering major who came to MSU after one season at the Colorado School of Mines, a male-only engineering college.
That experience didn't go so well, so DePasquale looked for a school in the South that had a solid engineering program, and he found MSU.
In two seasons, DePasquale has been deadly accurate, making 20 of 24 field goal tries and all 51 of his point-after kicks. Against Arkansas last season, he dashed onto the field - MSU was out of timeouts - and booted a last-second field goal to send the game into overtime.
That sort of performance commands the respect of his teammates.
Still, he's a kicker, so DePasquale has to work extra hard to build relationships with non-kickers.
"I talk to everyone, I try to make my rounds and see how everyone's doing, hanging out," he said. "Within the past year I've gotten more words out of (quarterback) Chris Relf than I've ever seen him talk to anybody. It's hard to get him to talk."
Just call him DePaq
The surest sign DePasquale is one of the guys: He's got a cool nickname. Strength coach Matt Balis calls him DePaq (pronounced dee-pock).
"It's got more of an intensity," DePaq said.
The respect he gets now isn't something he experienced from recruiters while in high school.
"I got overlooked a lot," said DePaq. "But I'd go to these camps, and I'd kick with the best of them, a lot of college kickers, and I'd kick with them, if not better than them. Just kind of personal self-worth I have. I knew I was just as good as (other) people, just really under-recruited.
"It's tough being a short-legged kicker."
DePasquale said his kicking hero is Dusty Mangum, who made the game-winning field goal for Texas in its 2005 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan. Mangum coached DePasquale at a Ray Guy camp several years ago.
DePaq came to State as a walk-on but has earned a scholarship. He arrived the same time as Sean Brauchle, who had been a junior college All-American and was expected to immediately take over placekicking duties.
But Brauchle got hurt, and DePasquale never let go of the job. His confidence has steadily increased.
"I feel like a lot of that I can attribute to Balis in the offseason, good strength program for another year," he said. "I guess I had more confidence in my leg; my sophomore year I guess I was still a little timid kicking."
For some reason - perhaps because he transferred in after only one year elsewhere - there has been some confusion over whether DePasquale was a junior or senior last season. I've had to answer that question more than once, as has he.
"I just tell them to show up, and if I'm there, I'm there. If not, they'll know I'm gone."
Funny guy. See?
Of rugby and facial hair
But I haven't even gotten to the most interesting parts about Derek DePasquale. Such as this: He played rugby his senior year of high school, mainly to stay in shape.
He was a fullback, which means he did a lot of kicking and running. He said he was pretty good.
"I think it's more fun than football."
I asked if he'd tried to convince coach Dan Mullen to use him on a fake field goal or extra point, and DePasquale said there's always that kind of play in the game plan. Alas, we've not seen it yet.
Perhaps in the spring game, April 9. If not that, I know what we will see: The DeStache, as I call it. Us beat reporters have been begging for it.
It made an appearance last year, and it was tremendous. Right now, DePaq has the full beard going, but he will bring back the mustache - its thickness is Tom Selleck-esque - for the game.
"My step-dad wouldn't shave during the football season until we lost," said DePaq. "So I decided not to shave this year until the spring game, and then spring game trim it off except for the mustache. I'm really excited about it. My mom's not going to be happy with me, but..."
But, he's a kicker. What do you expect?
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.
MSU’s spring game will be shown on CSS
■ Mississippi State’s annual Maroon-White spring football game will be televised live on CSS, the school announced Wednesday.
The game is set for 5 p.m. on April 9. In the booth for CSS will be former Bulldog head coach Jackie Sherrill as color analyst. Bart Gregory, who calls MSU women’s basketball games, will handle play-by-play duties.