Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Draft's Top-Rated Center Intense, Anxious

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Draft's Top-Rated Center Intense, Anxious

Article excerpt

Byline: Alex Abrams, Times-Union sports writer

Jeff Faine looks like the type of guy you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, or, better yet, on a football field. He is a 6-foot-2, 302-pound center with a shaved head and short, thick arms.

As the son of a Navy veteran and deputy sheriff, Faine admits, "I wasn't raised to be soft."

And the Sanford native wasn't much of a pushover during his three seasons as Notre Dame's in-your-face center. He was penalized twice during a 28-6 loss to North Carolina State in the Toyota Gator Bowl for shoving defenders after the whistle.

"I'm intense playing checkers," said Faine, a graduate of Seminole High School. "I'm a competitor. I love to win and hate to lose."

It's that intensity that has earned Faine not only his share of unnecessary roughness penalties but also a place as the top center in this weekend's NFL Draft. He is expected to be taken in the bottom half of the the first round, possibly by the New Orleans Saints with the No. 18 pick.

"There are not many players that play the game at the level Jeff does," Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said. "In some regards, he's a throwback to some of the really tough guys that played the game when there was no facemask."

But there is something that Faine wants people to know about him: He is actually a nice guy, despite his imposing size and bullying gameday demeanor. He likens himself to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in that the person he is on the field is the complete opposite of who he is off of it.

Meet Faine after a game and he shakes your hand, firm but not enough to crush your knuckles. Speak to Faine on the telephone and he is polite and easygoing. He'll even call you back.

Asked what's the first thing he's going to do with the large signing bonus he's expected to get from whichever team drafts him, Faine replied, "I'm going to help my parents out."

Faine said he sees a lot of himself in his father, but there is no comparison when it comes to the intensity that both men bring to their professions.

"I think it's apples and oranges," Faine said. "I think [my father] is an intense person, but it's not the same intensity. …

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