Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cardinal Corner: LaVar Charleston

OTP is proud to present our next installment of Cardinal Corner. It's our chance to catch up with Cardinals of the past and gain some inside insight into this year's Cardinal football team. Today's guest? LaVar Charleston, an offensive lineman for the Cardinals from 1999-2001. And everyone knows that the O-line is the most important positions on the field, or so said my offensive line coach.

Cardinal Corner: LaVar Charleston

OverThePylon: Many fans of the program remember you as an unsung hero, passionate Cardinal, and great advocate for the football program and university. Can you tell us a little about what you're up to these days?
LaVar Charleston: I am currently finishing up my graduate course work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, WI. I am a research assistant and Ph.D. student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. My research involves using innovative technologies to increase the learning outcomes of underserved populations. The research I conduct also serves to increase the performance and participation levels of ethnic minorities within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines to ultimately increase college access and retention among these groups.


OTP: As an alum and former letter winner, how does it feel to see the Cardinals getting so much love from the press and doing so well on the field?
LC: I am really excited about all of the exposure the Cardinals are getting and about how well they are doing on the field. Coming from a MAC school, I have always continued to cheer on, not only the Cardinals, but all other MAC schools (as long as they were not playing the Cardinals), particularly when they were competing against larger non-conference opponents.

When I was playing, we weren’t getting nearly as many televised games and the exposure that the MAC teams are getting now. I am glad to see the progress that is being made within the conference as a whole. Being at a “big time” football university now (Wisconsin), it feels really good to be able to brag about being a Cardinal Alum and having played on the football team (even though they smashed us when I was playing some years ago with Ron Dayne at tailback). I have been following the Cardinals all season and am excited about this season as well as the future of Cardinal Football.

Likewise, I am excited about the depth of talent this exposure has the propensity to recruit for next year! Of course, I was as hurt as everyone else was about Dante Love. But more than anything, I am happy that he is ok and will be able to live a normal life. There are few things that are as important as one’s health. I just thank God that he is ok.


OTP: We're coming off the off-week. How does a division 1 athlete tired from the half season typically spend the Saturday he's not actually on the field?
LC: I usually spent my by-week with my fraternity brothers…perhaps making a road trip to either IU, Purdue, or IUPUI to party with my fraternity brothers statewide. When I look back now, I’m thinking …I probably should have been resting somewhere instead of partying!:-D


OTP: Chat a little about Brady Hoke. Having never played for Hoke, do you believe the team's success this year is a one-year phenomenon or is he turning the corner in Muncie to continued success? More importantly, do you see Coach Hoke staying in Muncie for very long?
LC: Though I have not played for Hoke, I have spent a little time with him, helping him out a few times when I was working at Ball State as an Assistant director of admissions shortly after I graduated. I think he is a great coach and has rallied the team around a centralized theme of community, and I think that the entire program represents the structure and leadership he brought with him when he arrived from Michigan. I do not believe this is a one year phenomenon. I think that the pieces have finally started to come together under Hoke’s leadership and the Cards’ current success is a result thereof. I do not know how long he will stay but I am confident that for as long as he does, he will continue to lead the program in the right direction.


OTP: Still on the topic of coaches, you played for Bill Lynch while at BSU. As the current head man down the road in Bloomington, he's getting mentioned as a coach on the hot seat. Thoughts?
LC: Everyone who knows Bill Lynch knows that he is a good guy. That being said, I am definitely pulling for him at IU. However, we all know the cut-throat nature of this game though…Produce, or see ya later! So all I can say is…I hope they can somehow pull it together over there.


OTP: I have to ask you an O-line question since you were one of the hogmollies up front for several years. The offensive line has been impressive this season, both in protecting Nate Davis and also opening up holes for MiQuale Lewis to drop century mark rushing performances on opposing defenses. What sorts of things have you noticed about the offensive line this season that has allowed this to happen?
LC: I think the o-line this year just has an overall aggressive and “go-get-it attitude. They seem to be really gelling and it has a lot to do with their chemistry, and their admiration and respect for Nate and MiQuale. As an o-lineman, there were certain players you just gave an extra push for…players that motivated you and had confidence in you. Though I am not in the “huddle,” it seems that this is what’s happening on offense…And I’m loving every minute of it! BOSS HOGS!!!!


OTP: Can you give us your favorite memory as a football Cardinal?
LC: Attending homecoming this year reminded me of my favorite memories as a Cardinal…Relationships and Brotherhood. No matter how poorly or how well we performed, I bonded with my teammates in a way that is indescribable. Some of these players stood up for me at my wedding, as I have stood up in some of theirs. I built bonds of friendships that lasts forever.

Of course I miss getting out there on the gridiron and hitting somebody, but I always knew the physical aspect of football would not last for ever…but the mental aspect does. Not only did I build immeasurable friendships, I also cultivated leadership skills among my teammates, and on the field that is immediately transferable to almost every aspect of my life. I always remember that even though times may get rough, quitting is never an option. Though my football career did not go exactly how I anticipated it would, I am ever grateful for my experience as a Ball State Cardinal Football player.

(Ed. Note: Big thanks to LaVar for taking the time to sit down with us. A fantastic player, great guy, and ridiculously smart... you know... as evidenced by that whole PhD thing. )

1 comment:

Nick Kline said...

He was also one hell of a dancer! I remember seeing LaVar take that dirty dancing contest hands down at Dill Street! haha.. good to see he's doing well!