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A conversation with Arizona assistant coach Joe Salave’a, Part I

Joe Salave'a usually works up a good sweat coaching his defensive linemen. Photo by Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com

Arizona defensive line coach Joe Salave’a sometimes prefaces interviews with the caveat, “Oh, I don’t have anything to say.”

And then he goes on to have lots to say.

Salave’a is a former All-Pac-10 defensive tackle at Arizona, a high-motor player who bulled his way into making 43.5 career tackles for loss from 1994 to 1997.

He spent nine seasons in the NFL with four teams before beginning his coaching career at San Jose State in 2008, working under his former head coach at Arizona, Dick Tomey.

Salave’a is in his first season on the Wildcats’ coaching staff.

Here is part of a recent interview I did with Salave’a (part II to come later):

On what playing in the NFL for nine years does to your body:

“I wish there was a magic wand — a Harry Potter kind of thing — where you could just tap me on the head and I could be young again. There is a lot of documentation of former NFL guys having issues and stuff, and I’m crossing my fingers. That stuff doesn’t hit you right away.

“I’m only five, six years away from it, and I think I’m starting to feel the effect of some of those things. You don’t think about it when you’re playing because you love the sport. But looking back now, money can’t buy your health. Lucky enough, I got out on my own terms. It wasn’t like I was forced out.

“I have two babies I want to be around for, and now it’s a matter of being really conscious of health issues and getting back into the weight room. It’d be nice to be there with the guys; instead of preaching to the choir, be a part of the choir.”

On if he ever shows video of his playing days to the UA defensive linemen:

“They’ve seen some. I try not to use my own clippings, but a lot of people have those. The only sad thing about it is that the guy on film is about 50 pounds lighter. But everybody learns in different ways. If it helps our guys, I try to show it to them …

“I hope one thing is that it validates the fact that I’m not just blowing smoke, because I have to make sure our guys understand exactly where they stand, how far we have to go and what the expectations are.”

On pursuing an NFL position at some point (Salave’a has twice taken part in the NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship, once under then-San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan and also under Seattle Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll):

“Those guys were surprised that I was even coaching. For a while there, I was under the radar. … If an opportunity comes along, I’ll be sure to look into it, but I’m enjoying this here and trying to do the best I can. I just like everything about it (coaching college kids). You have a chance to mold these guys; that’s what I like about it.”

On his coaching influences beyond Tomey:

“There are quite a few. Greg Williams of the New Orleans Saints. Greg Blache, he’s retired now. Joe Gibbs. Pete Carroll. Jim Washburn, the defensive line coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. …

“The one thing I take the most pride in is that every day is a new day, a new challenge, and you have to work as if that’s your last day, as if that’s your interview. That’s the motto I follow. And I will always be that way, whether I’m coaching, teaching or being a father. I’m blessed to have been around those people and I try my best to keep in touch with those guys. You talk about wisdom; those guys got it.”

Here is the second part of the Salave’a interview.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second installment of our 24 Hours of Arizona Football Blogging — one post at the top of every hour. Keep checking back at TucsonCitizen.com through Friday at 11 a.m. or follow the entire series with the “24 hours of blogging” tag.

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