Hog fans who followed the football team in the 1980s no doubt have great memories of watching Tony Chercio, the undersized but tenacious noseguard who starred for Coach Ken Hatfield from 1984 to 1987. Cherico, who was an All-American in his senior season and a three-time member of the All-Southwest-Conference team, is now a defensive line coach for the legendary Barry Lunney Sr. at Bentonville High School in northwest Arkansas. In today's fourth and final installment (here are the links for the preceding segments: part 1, part 2 and part 3), Tony discusses his funniest teammates, "Miami Vice" and the intense love football players have for soap operas.
Expats: We’re always kind of interested in looking behind the scenes. In your days, there, were there any players that stood out as the guys that always kept things loose in the locker room?
Cherico: Oh, yeah. We always had a class clown. Bobby Joe Edmonds, he was legendary for some of the things that he would come up with. First of all, he had his own language. He was a running back. Sometimes, he would come up with stuff that would just floor you.
The other one would be I think Ravin Caldwell. Ravin was funny. He was a great athlete. He was Fort Smith Northside. Heck, he ended up playing in the league five years. He has two Super Bowl rings to show for it. Great athlete but he was a clown. He kept everybody loose.
The whole defense - we were hard-nosed, but we were fun. We were close-knit group of kids.
Greg Thomas on the offense, and Derrick Thomas. They were funny. Derek always used to do imitations of the coaches. [Steve] Atwater and Sammy Van Dyke. It was funny - we always had somebody who could imitate a coach to a tee.
It kept it light. It kept it fun. The one thing that we really had going for us when we were playing under Coach Hatfield is that it was a family-type atmosphere. We knew we were there to play ball and to win but yet we kept everything in perspective. It was a game, and it was fun.
Expats: This is another behind-the-scenes kind of question. When you look back on your playing days, is there any particular song or music that whenever you hear it -
Cherico: Oh man, you’re going to make me date myself to the 80s! The one show – I was there for four different seasons, so we kind of went through the whole gamut. You had "Alf," that was a comedy show that everybody watched.
The big one, Friday nights: "Miami Vice." I never watched it but a lot of the players did. It was funny because "Miami Vice" was on from 9 to 10, and at 10 o’clock, we had our team meeting. There were many times that we had players showing up late because they’re watching their "Miami Vice."
"Moonlighting" was another one. We watched that.
The funny thing was soap operas – you’d be amazed how many football players watched soap operas. We had guys that actually scheduled their classes around "All My Children." They’d get in the locker room, and they were like a bunch of women talking about it. We’d be traveling on Fridays, and they’d be telling the story line, and they couldn’t wait until Monday to see what would happen.
But the music was bad. It was the 80s music. I remember the TV shows more than anything.
Expats: You’re a coach now and in the area. What are your thoughts on this year’s Razorbacks?
Cherico: Well, we’re going to score a whole lot of points. I can tell you that right now. I think what [Petrino’s] done is the same thing that Coach Hatfield did when he first got there: He came in there, and he demanded the best out of his players. And he’s going to get the best out of his players.
He’s getting his players into his system right now, which you can see. Offensively, they’re clicking on all cylinders right now. The thing is, if they can win on the road, they’re going to be a damn good team.
The part of the team that’s going to have to really step up is the defense. The SEC is so tough. There’s hardly ever a breather game. Especially when you go on the road.
The kids are believing in themselves, the defensive line. These kids have been there now three years, and they have a lot of experience. The secondary’s young but pretty athletic.
If they can stop some people, get those early wins, get the confidence rolling, there’s no telling how good they can be.
I see a lot in Coach Petrino. He has the kids believing in the system. You can just tell from the first time he had two-a-days until right now, these kids know what to expect. He’s getting so much more in. He’s not having to re-teach everything. All he’s doing right now is fine-tuning.
I’m looking forward to it. I really think that the schedule is set up for them to have a real successful year, if they can win on the road and win the big ones at home with Alabama and Ole Miss.
(This concludes our Q&A with Tony Cherico.Many thanks to Tony for his time and many thanks to commenter Eddie Van Hoglen for helping to set the interview up. Here are parts 1, 2 and 3.)