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Hester growing into his role

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 12, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Beefed-up fullback Hester looks to build on rookie season, step out of Neal's shadow

    By Kevin Acee
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    9:55 p.m. August 11, 2009

    SAN DIEGO – LaDainian Tomlinson, in his low-key, small-town Texas way of conversing, was talking about working with fullback Jacob Hester and the improvement the kid has made when something set Tomlinson off.

    He leaned forward, his voice growing louder and, for a second, reaching a shrill pitch.

    The thing that animated him was the mention of one of his best friends.

    “I want to put that to rest – that we can't run the ball without Lorenzo,” Tomlinson said. “Lorenzo was Lorenzo. He helped us a bunch, but we can still run the football.”

    No one missed Lorenzo Neal more than Tomlinson last season, the first after Neal's release by the Chargers. Neal was a close friend, a mentor and a lead blocker on so many plays for Tomlinson in their five years together. Tomlinson valued Neal as a veteran influence in the locker room and a physical presence on the field.

    But, really, it's time to move on.

    “Jacob is going to help us run the football more effectively this year,” Tomlinson said. “He's a year more experienced, so he's seen it. Man, it's hard to come in here and play right away as a rookie and just be good. It was hard for me. He's a year experienced, so he's going to be that much better.”


    Hester sometimes didn't know which way was up in 2008.

    “It was a whirlwind,” he said. “I didn't know what I was playing.”

    Drafted in the third round as a fullback, Hester primarily played running back in training camp. Though seldom touching the ball until mid-November, he was primarily a running back until Mike Tolbert went down with a shoulder injury in the season's 11th game.

    Hester was the starter at fullback from the beginning of December on, essentially learning on the job and doing it at 230 pounds – about 25 pounds lighter than Neal and 15 lighter than Tolbert.

    In addition to an offseason of studying and learning, Hester gained about eight pounds.

    “This extra (weight) gets that second push and that third push, to drive them past the hole,” he said. “It's been good ... I notice it every time I hit someone.”

    Hester knows he won't be the kind of basher Neal was and that he doesn't need to be. The blocking might not come as naturally or easily, but he can do things Neal can't – like catch and run.

    Hester had 19 carries for 95 yards and 19 receptions for 91 yards in '08. His presence gives the Chargers a viable weapon in the fullback. As effective and prescient a blocker as Neal was, his hands were made of brick and his feet often got tangled when trying to catch a pass.

    “This offense has switched,” Hester said. “The whole NFL is switching (to) guys that can use leverage (to block) and still do stuff with the ball.”

    More than his added bulk or power, Hester's defensive teammates have noticed improved angles and body control so far in camp.

    “You see the size of him and you think he's undersized,” linebacker Stephen Cooper said. “But he knows how to put himself between you and the ball carrier. He's real smart.”

    Hester has picked Tomlinson's brain, and Tomlinson has accepted Hester's invitation to tell him in practice what he's seeing.

    “I tell him if he sees me doing something wrong or I can do better to tell me,” Hester said. “We've been doing that. It's working.”

    But Hester is never going to be Neal, who is entering his 16th season, longest ever for a fullback.

    “You've got to respect the guy,” Hester said. “He's played fullback longer than anyone has.”

    Neal, now with the Oakland Raiders, is still a frequent topic of conversation among players at Chargers Park. Hester hears about the legend from teammates and just recently saw video of the play in Baltimore in 2006 where Neal, carrying the ball, actually ran back at the end of a play to hit Ravens'345-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

    “That was amazing,” Hester said.

    Fans, too, have approached Hester in public and told him that not only does he look smaller in pads than Neal but also schooled him on how good Neal was.

    Hester doesn't mind the specter of Neal still hovering, but it's on his mind.

    “The goal this season,” Hester said,
    “is to make everybody forget about that, make it where everybody felt comfortable and they thought of (fullback) as a strength and not a weakness.”

    Nuts 'n' Bolts

    The Chargers worked on the “Wildcat” Tuesday. Tomlinson took direct snaps, as did Legedu Naanee. Both threw passes and ran. Said Chargers coach Norv Turner: “We're doing it to help our defense get ready for it.”

    Safety Eric Weddle returned to practice after missing the previous five with an ankle injury. Cooper (ankle), left tackle Marcus McNeill (knee), Jacques Cesaire (calf), Louis Vasquez (foot), Ian Scott (knee) and Andre Coleman (foot) did not practice and worked on the side.

    The last open practice of camp starts at 7 Wednesday night at Qualcomm Stadium. Parking and admission are free.

    Play of practice. No, the play of camp: Jamal Williams batted a Philip Rivers pass at the line. The ball ricocheted back to Rivers, who took off running around the end with Williams in pursuit. As Williams, who is faster than he looks, closed in on Rivers, who is slower than he looks, Williams went face (or belly) down on the grass. Everyone from players to coaches to bystanders started laughing. Practice ended.
  2. Bergo23

    Bergo23 BoltTalker

    Sep 28, 2006
    Its sad becuase it may cost Tolbert a roster spot, but Hester sounds like heis asserting himself. He is the Moose to the Charger offense that won him two Super Bowls in Dallas.

    Another high character guy who "is a football player." This offense is locked and loaded to set some records this year.

    BOLT POWER Well-Known Member

    Oct 21, 2006
    looks stronger bit heavier than last year, his confidence has picked up, expect more plays from him this year

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