Ray Rowe is sitting on a bench outside of the San Diego State locker room.
And Kevin Macon is standing about 40 yards away, on the other side of the SDSU football training table.
On the training table are a couple of pans of chicken.
Mark that down. Chicken is one of the few things that comes between them.
It is a couple of hours after practice.
Rowe eyes Macon.
“I see Kevin standing over there,” Rowe says. “He’s not going to eat.”
Indeed, Macon is waiting for Rowe. Which means tonight’s dinner probably will be home-cooked at Macon’s house. And if it isn’t, it will probably be picked up on the way home and eaten at Macon’s house.
“I don’t eat if he doesn’t eat,” Rowe explains. “We eat the same thing.”
“We have a thing for Mexican food.”
They also have a thing for playing football together, taking classes together and, as if they haven’t seen enough of each other by nightfall, hanging out at each other’s houses.
Rowe is SDSU’s Utah-bashing, defense-trashing, totally smashing tight end. He is 6-feet-3 and 245 pounds, with a smile that melts women’s hearts and a body that crushes opponents’ bones.
Did you see him at Utah Saturday?
He had three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, including a 29-yard gain during which he plowed over four Utes and dragged another one 17 yards .
“That felt great,” Rowe said. “It’s not something new to me. I did it in high school and finally got the opportunity to do it again.
“They were trying to tackle the ball. That’s something I haven’t experienced in awhile. Usually, they go for the legs.”
From now on, they probably will.
His favorite part of football is running over people. He goes for “flatbacks,” when you stuff your opponent so hard he lands on his back.
“I love to protect and I love to crush,” he said. “That really gets me going. Crushing people, throwing them down on the ground.”
His other favorite part of football is playing alongside his buddy. Macon is a 6-2, 260-pound center. They are two of a kind. Both are seniors, Rowe from Mira Mesa High and Macon from Patrick Henry. They both still live at home, most of the time at Macon’s home.
“We call (Ray) our adopted son,” said Ernest Macon, Kevin’s dad. “He’s a real nice kid. He’s considered one of the family.”
Considering Rowe’s size and affinity for crushing people, it’s probably not a bad idea to keep him on your side.
“He’s everything you want in a tight end,” SDSU Coach Al Luginbill said. “An excellent run blocker, an excellent pass protector, he runs his routes well, he’s strong and he catches the ball. I’m excited he is having a good senior year.”
So far, Rowe has caught 16 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown. He also has sprung SDSU running backs loose several times with his precision blocking. It’s no secret he is a large part of the reason the SDSU running game is ranked 19th in the nation.
And his 16 catches are more than two-thirds as many as he had entering the season--23 for 320 yards.
His only touchdown before this season came during a 30-28 loss to Miami last year. For obvious reasons, it was a memorable moment. It was also memorable to Rowe and Macon for another reason.
“We had a dance ready for national TV,” Macon said. “We had practiced it at my house and showed my dad.
“But by the time I got (into the end zone), he was already being mobbed. So we couldn’t do it. We were real disappointed.”
After most of Rowe’s catches, Macon is the first to arrive on the scene. Macon came to SDSU as a fullback in 1987 but, when Luginbill arrived in 1989 and instituted a one-back offense, Macon suddenly was left without a position. He redshirted in 1989 and now is one of the best centers in the Western Athletic Conference. When NFL scouts watch SDSU practices, they take notes on both Rowe and Macon.
Since Macon doesn’t get to carry the ball anymore, he becomes especially excited for Rowe.
“Every time you watch films and he gets a catch, you can see me skipping down the field,” Macon said. “He’s my best buddy, and I don’t get to run the ball anymore. . . .
“On any good run, I try to get down the field and help the back up, but with Ray especially.”
Said Rowe, smiling: “I dedicate my catches to Kevin. Every time I make a catch and run people over . . . Kevin was my teacher. When we were freshmen, I used to watch him play fullback.
“He knows. When you run people over, you really get people going. I find that out. You can juke someone, but people don’t remember. They remember someone getting run over.”
There is a gentler side. A criminal justice major, Rowe is on track to graduate by December. He would like to be a police officer or an FBI agent, and he and Macon are currently taking an internship with the SDSU Department of Public Safety.
“I wish I could think of a five-syllable word for great,” said Det. Tom Boyer, who works with Rowe. “He’s real interested in being a police officer. He’s very energetic.”
And for the past three off-seasons, Rowe has taught driver’s education in Mira Mesa. He got the job through an old junior varsity football coach.
“I love it,” Rowe said. “It pays great, and it gives me a chance to have an effect on teen-agers.
“You’re not just teaching them how to drive. You’re talking to them. I like getting their views on life. Not too long ago, I was in their spot.”
Now, a few members of the football team wouldn’t mind being in Rowe’s spot.
“All of the other guys are working construction, mixing cement or whatever,” Macon said. “Ray’s in an air-conditioned car driving around these little 15-year-olds.”
It isn’t difficult for Rowe to relate things to football. Driver’s education? Well, he said, he likes to work with young people anywhere. Freshmen on the football field, sophomores in high school. Police interest? Well, you know . . .
“I like to be the enforcer,” he said. “I like it when plays come my way. And as a police officer, you are the enforcer in your neighborhood.”
Rowe is serious enough about law enforcement that he says he will not bounce from NFL city to WLAF city begging for a job if football doesn’t work out immediately for him.
“Nah, I’m not going to chase the dream,” Rowe said. “You see a lot of people doing that, trying to make something out of nothing. I don’t want to stall my career. I feel going out for other leagues would be stalling my career.”
So Rowe will play this season, and then who knows? He and Macon, a tight end and a center, are together, the team is winning and, for now, that’s all that matters.
“I wonder what will happen to either one of these guys if one makes the pros and one doesn’t,” Ernest Macon mused the other night.
The one who doesn’t would probably hang around anyway. Someone has to plan dinner.