Falcons Vice President of Football Communications Reggie Roberts spotlights a player each week in a series of on-the-spot, off-beat questions in a weekly segment featured on AtlantaFalcons.com called "Behind the Facemask." This week's featured player is Falcons starting right tackle Tyson Clabo, who is part of an explosive offense that is ranked seventh in the NFL, averaging 370.9 yards per game. We caught up with Tyson after Thursday's practice to discuss why offensive linemen usually end up dating and marrying beautiful women, his commitment to his family, his aspirations of being a professional fisherman and what he loves about NFL Sundays.
Reggie Roberts: Offensive linemen are usually some of the smartest and most cerebral guys on NFL football teams. Why do you think that is?
Tyson Clabo: "Other than the quarterback, the position where there is the most mental strain is center and the other offensive line positions. If you are not smart enough to figure it out, you are probably not smart enough to play offensive line."
RR: You are part of an offensive line that's been together for the better part of three years. You guys play very well together and I was wondering why that is.
TC: "I think it's because we all get along very well. That's not the case on every team and you can see it when you watch film of other teams. When something goes wrong and when someone misses an assignment, you can see how angry guys on other teams who are teammates get at one another. That does not happen with us. I think the key thing is that we all understand that none of us are going to do it right every time. We support each other and we pick each other up. That may not work for other teams, but it works for us."
RR: What's the one thing fans have no idea about pertaining to offensive line play during an NFL game?
TC: "The biggest thing that I think that people don't understand is how hard it is to communicate on the road. Whether fans are watching it live or on television, they can tell that it's loud, but they have no idea how loud it really is. It gets so loud at times that we can barely hear the play call in the huddle. If you watch really carefully when teams are on the road and it's really loud, the offensive lineman are talking to each other on their way to the line of scrimmage just to make sure that they all heard the same play call. It can get that loud on the road."
RR: Let's switch gears. When I covered the Houston Oilers back in the early 1990s for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper in Austin, Texas, the O-line guys were some of my favorite guys to talk to. I really got to know those guys and noticed that they always managed to date the hottest and most attractive ladies, who later turned into fiancés and wives. The same holds true for our guys, so my question is this: How do offensive linemen — guys who are 6-foot-6, 300-plus pounds — always end up with the prettiest women?
TC: "It's very simple. First of all, 95 percent of all offensive linemen all have the best personalities that any woman could possibly ask for. Personality wise, O-line guys are at the top of the list. And most importantly, O-linemen are protectors. We protect quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. Even the most beautiful women in the world can appreciate that."
RR: Let's talk about you. What hidden skill do you have that no one knows about?
TC: "I have no hidden skills."
RR: Can you sing?
TC: "I can't sing, I can't play any instruments, but I am an incredible speller. There are few words that I cannot spell correctly. Make sure you put that in there. My wife (Kendra) will laugh at that because it's a total lie because I am the worst speller in the world."
RR: What's the one thing you cannot do without?
TC: "Other than my family, I cannot live without my fishing pole."
RR: I never knew you were a fisherman.
TC: "If I am slotted for the second group for workouts during the offseason, I go fishing in the morning before I head into the complex for my workout. I get up early and go fishing on Lake Lanier. I have a bass boat and I'll be out there for a couple of hours.
RR: How many times did you fish this past offseason?
TC: "I'll bet I fished about 40 or 50 times. I'm planning to go to South America to go fishing for peacock bass at some point. Hopefully, we can get that done this offseason."
RR: No offense, but you are a huge man (Clabo is listed at 6-6, 329 pounds). What are you like at home when the Falcons don't win?
TC: "I get pretty upset when we lose, but I don't act like the world is coming to an end. My wife tells me I am lot more pleasant to be around when we win."
RR: What would you be doing if you were not playing football?
TC: "Before I thought I would ever have a chance to play professional football, I thought I wanted to be an athletic director at a major university. That was my dream. But once I made it to the NFL, I decided that I no longer wanted to become an athletic director. But the one thing that I would absolutely love to do is fish for a living."
RR: Like those guys who fish in the Bassmaster Classic?
TC: "Yes, just like those guys. If I were to do that, I'd have to get a lot better. Those guys live on the water. They have RVs that they ride around in and pull their boats behind. They travel around the country all year long, competing in one tournament after the other. They've got the same set of problems as the NASCAR guys in that they have to get sponsors. If you talk to the NASCAR guys, you will find that fishing at the highest level and NASCAR are very similar. The things that have to go correctly to win a NASCAR race are extremely similar to things that have to go correctly to be successful on the bass fishing circuit. I hear some people say that fishing is just luck, but if that were true, why do the same guys always win? If you check out the standings year after year, the same guys are always in the top 10. Those guys are very good at what they do. They are the best in the world."
RR: When you were slogging your way through NFL Europe (Tyson was cut four times before finally making it as an established NFL offensive tackle), were you always confident that it would work out the way it has for you?
TC: "At times it was tough. I got released four times. When you come out of college, every player thinks he has it made and that the NFL will be easy. But when you get here, you learn real fast that that is not the case."
RR: How long did it take you to adjust to the speed of the NFL game?
TC: "It took me at least a full calendar year. It was an entire training camp and then an entire season in NFL Europe. Everybody in this league is fast … everybody but me."
RR: What are your thoughts on impending labor situation?
TC: "I'll say this. Nobody is going to win with no football in 2011. I'm optimistic that there will be football."
RR: What's the best thing about NFL Sunday's?
TC: "Winning. That's the best thing and it's the only thing."