*How well do we know the men who make up the Packers roster? Even the most ardent fan - the one who studies every play, knows the 40-yard-dash time of every prospect, is at every practice during training camp - still most likely is familiar primarily with what the players of the Green and Gold are up to on the field.
Packers.com is taking a look at some of the off-the-field interests of the players behind the facemasks that you cheer so heartily for during the football season. This is a chance to get to know the players through a series of questions and answers, some football-related and others having nothing to do with the gridiron.
Let's get to know... Paris Lenon.*
A special teams dynamo, Paris Lenon in 2004 served as the primary backup at the 'Will' (weak-side) and 'Buck' (strong-side) linebacker positions, playing in all 16 games (including five games with a broken thumb suffered in the season opener at Carolina) for the third straight year for the Packers, including four starts.
A native of Lynchburg, Va., the former Richmond Spider finished last season with a career-high 28 tackles (17 solo) from scrimmage, while contributing eight special teams stops and one pass defensed.
One of the few players with experience in the NFL, NFL Europe (Amsterdam 2002) and XFL (Memphis 2001), Lenon also owns a B.A. degree in studio art and often spends his free time in the basement of his home drawing original cartoon characters.
Packers.com recently caught up with Lenon during some down time in his offseason workouts to let you Packer fans get some more background on #53.
Packers.com: At what age did you set your goal to be a professional athlete?
Paris Lenon: I would say that I was probably 21 when I first realized that it would be a possibility for me. Prior to that I just played football because I loved the game and I enjoyed it. That was part of the reason why I went to college, along with getting an education. I just played ball because I loved the game. It wasn't really until after my junior season that I realized that I might be able to take it to the next level.
Outside of football, what type of work could you see yourself doing?
It's hard to say because I'm not the type of person to necessarily be stuck in an office. I'm pretty creative. I was an art major in school, so I would need something to allow me to really work at my own pace and to do work that is really inspiring to me. I know corporate America is not really like that. Had football not come along, I probably would have tried to get into some type of graphic design.
I like to draw. I have some things in the basement and I go down and draw when I'm feeling it. That's really the thing with me, especially now when I don't have to do it as much, since I'm not in school anymore and it's not a requirement. I've just got so many things going on that I don't really get an opportunity to sit down and just draw. But whenever I get a feeling of something I go down there.
What types of things do you like to draw?
I make up characters. I like to put them in different scenes, but it's not necessarily your typical cartoon, or something that is fun or kind of happy, like some of the cartoons you might have watched as a kid. A lot of my characters are somewhat realistic, but some of their characteristics are exaggerated, like maybe a nose or an arm, things like that. But I do put them in real settings. It's just kind of my own thing. I started in high school. I would look at a lot of different pictures and basically just draw what I was looking at. My art teacher wouldn't accept it anymore and challenged me to make up my own characters. So that's how that started.
Back to football, what was your feeling when you played your first game as a pro?
It was against Atlanta (Sept. 8, 2002). I was just running. At the time, I mostly played special teams. I had not played enough and didn't have that much experience and I was just running down the field, not really picking up on everything because I was just so excited. With each game I settled down into a comfort zone and was able to start making plays.
What was it like for you to walk out of the tunnel of Lambeau Field for the first time?
It was exciting to be able to showcase your talents in front of that many people that were pulling for you. It was a big thrill.
Tell us about the last...
...movie you saw.
Guess Who, with Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac.
...big purchase you made.
A roof for my mother and father.
...time you cried hard.
When my son was born over a year ago.
...time you laughed hard?
The other day. You're always laughing in this locker room.
...good meal you had?
Probably the last time I ate Catfish.
What was your nickname as a child?
I never really had one, but most of the people in my neighborhood called me by my middle name, Mike.
How did you get the name Paris?
It was passed down from my grandfather, to my father to me. None of us have the same middle name, but we all have the same initials. I also passed that down to my son.
Who was your favorite athlete growing up?
From about the time I started watching him, which was about 1988, I've been a big fan of Roy Jones, Jr.
When you were a rookie, did you have any tricks played on you by some of the veterans?
Not really. They definitely made jokes about you during film sessions when you messed up, but that's just part of it.
If you could play any other position on the field besides linebacker, what would it be?
Probably kicker. That's the position that takes the least amount of toll on your body. Even as a punter, you're in on some of the coverages and you have to help out a little bit. They say placekickers are "the last line of defense," but they don't really expect you to make tackles, so you're not really going to make any contact. You just have to be able to place the ball where you need it and then you just kind of jog down there and position yourself in the middle of the field, hoping that someone makes the tackle before the play gets anywhere near you.
What about the pressure of a last second kick? Could you handle it?
I could handle it. The amount of pressure for a receiver having to make a catch, or the quarterback having to make a throw, or the running back having to make a good cut is all similar. As a linebacker, you have pressure to break up a pass or to make a tackle. The main difference for kickers is that everyone is watching at that particular time and everyone is banking on them. But I think that if I did it for a living then I wouldn't have any other choice but to get comfortable with it.
What is your idea of a perfect vacation spot?
I can't remember the last time I actually took a vacation. I can't really say, just somewhere that I can relax. It doesn't necessarily have to be somewhere tropical. It does have to be warm. It has to be laid back and just somewhere you can relax. It could be somewhere in the States as long as it's warm. I prefer the Southeast, because I grew up in Virginia.
Xbox or PlayStation?
Do you like to cook? If so, what's your specialty?
Yeah, I don't cook that much, but I do like to cook. Being from where I'm from, I definitely specialize in deep frying things.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Do you truly consider Green Bay your home away from home?
I do. I can adapt to anyplace that I live, and I've lived overseas. The only thing I don't like is that the weather changes so much here in Green Bay. If it's going to be in the 70s, stay in the 70s. If it's going to be in the 50s, stay in the 50s. The weather changes a lot from day to day.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
Wow, I have to think about that. I've done a lot of goofy stuff.
It was probably in college during one of my public speaking classes. We had to give a 5-8 minute "how to" speech. Most people described how to make salad, or how to make peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, or how to tie a shoe.
I got this bright idea to do a speech on how to give a haircut, because I like to do that on the side a little bit. Let's just say it didn't take five minutes. It took me about 12 minutes, even though I cut him (my roommate) up pretty quick. No one in the class understood what was going on, because most of them were women and had never been to a barber shop. My professor also was a lady and she had no idea what I was talking about when I said that you had to go against the grain with the clippers and you have different guards, and so on and so forth.
It was embarrassing because I put a lot of work into it and thought it was a good idea. Had it been a different audience and had they given me more time, it probably would have been a great demonstration.
Even after I started giving the speech, I thought it was a good idea. I thought I could introduce all of those women to the world of hair cutting.
So what kind of grade did you get on that project?
I got a 'D.' She would have given me an 'F' but she knew that I had actually put some effort into it. I think that her heart wouldn't allow her to give me an 'F.'