Getting to know ASU linebacker Carlos Mendoza

BY foxsports • July 26, 2013

Getting his first significant college playing time in Arizona State's second game of the season last year, freshman linebacker Carlos Mendoza had big shoes to fill. Senior captain Brandon Magee was sidelined in the game against Illinois with a concussion.

Mendoza performed so well in the opportunity he had ASU coach Todd Graham wishing after the game that he'd started Mendoza, who had two interceptions in the game. The performance was bittersweet, though, as Mendoza injured his left shoulder, which had been hurt prior to his arrival at ASU, and required surgery that ended his season.

Now, having received a medical redshirt waiver to preserve a season of eligibility, Mendoza is healthy again and prepared to compete for a top job in fall camp.

With Chris Young taking over Magee's spot at WILL linebacker, Mendoza moved to SPUR linebacker late in spring practice. There, Mendoza could compete for a starting job. As the start of fall camp nears, caught up with Mendoza to discuss football and his life off the field.

FSAZ: Did you expect to make an impact so early in your college football career last season?

Mendoza: I didn't really expect to as much as I thought I was going to be given an opportunity to put myself in that position. I knew coaches were going to allow me to work hard and give myself an opportunity to prove myself, but I didn't come in with a big head expecting to start right off the bat.

FSAZ: So it had to be exciting that you got to play in the first game of the season?

Mendoza: It's still a goal for me to start. Every year we have new competition, new people like junior college transfers. So every year it's my goal to start and be one of the best linebackers we have here. So I was very excited to get to play right away.

As exciting as that was, it had to be equally frustrating to get hurt in your second game, and one you played so well in.

Mendoza: I was very frustrated, but at the same time I felt like it was more of a blessing to me. I knew in my mind that my shoulder wasn't ready for full contact and to be doing all the things I was doing. So I felt like I'd rather have it happen then than have it happen later in the year so I could have the whole year to get my shoulder ready.

FSAZ: What's the status of your shoulder now?

Mendoza: My shoulder's at 100 percent. The doctors said I healed faster than I was expected to, and that's why I was out there doing stuff during spring. I'm 100 percent for fall camp.

FSAZ: You did ultimately get a couple games experience and a whole season of learning and relationship building out of last year. How much did you gain from that as opposed to a complete redshirt year?

Mendoza: I gained a lot more knowledge about the game just in schemes and how to look at things differently. From a defensive point of view, I learned how to read receivers betters, understanding their routes and how to guard them, understanding lineman and what they're going to do based on how they line up. I gained a lot of insights from what Brandon Magee taught me and coach (Paul) Randolph and coach Graham as well.

FSAZ: You mention Magee's impact. Tell me more about his influence on you.

Mendoza: He had a big impact on me. He was one of the guys I looked up to, and he wasn't a selfish guy. He always wanted to help us younger people, especially me. He always tried to give me a little extra insight during practice. I learned a lot from him. He was the one who helped me figure out how much of a different game it was going to be from high school. He opened my eyes to college football.

FSAZ: You took reps at SPUR linebacker late in the spring. Do you expect that to continue? What do you like about the position?

Mendoza: I do expect it to continue because the coaches sat down and had a talk with me about SPUR. They've kind of been on me about that for a while now. They just recognized my abilities, gave me a shot there and I hope I can stay at that position because I feel like I'm more of a versatile linebacker just because I'm not the biggest. It's kind of a position I've always wanted to play since I got here. It's a little more like what I played in high school -- a hybrid between safety and linebacker where I get to use my coverage skills.

FSAZ: Getting away from the field, what do you like to do most away from football?

Mendoza: I like to look up stuff about cars. I've always been interested in cars, fast cars. My dad has a hobby shop back home in California so every time we go back home we always work on cars. I don't know too much like him and my brothers do -- they know just about everything there is to know.

FSAZ: What do you like to do most with teammates?

Mendoza: Just go see movies and go out to eat mostly.

FSAZ: Best movie you've seen lately?

Mendoza: I'd have to say the new Superman, 'Man of Steel.'

FSAZ: What's something unique about you fans might not know?

Mendoza: My parents always tried to give me a good life but it was still kind of hard. I feel like maybe since I was the first one to go to college I'm finally fulfilling their dreams as well as mine, doing something good for my family.

FSAZ: You're a Southern California guy -- who was your team growing up?

Mendoza: I used to root for Oakland in the NFL, and I always wanted to go to USC because of Reggie Bush.

FSAZ: Besides Bush, were there other players you enjoyed watching at either level?

Mendoza: In the NFL, my favorite player has always been Ray Lewis, just as a player and a person.

FSAZ: What about now? Anyone in the NFL you like or try to emulate?

Mendoza: I try to watch Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, the two linebackers for the 49ers. I like the way they play. They have a lot of good, physical state of mind, and they're also very smart. If you watch them you can see how smart they are and how much they know the game.

FSAZ: Given your limited action last year, fans still don't know a lot about you. What should they know?

Mendoza: Just my passion for the game. I see football as more than a game. It's kind of my whole life, so I'm going to do everything in my power to play it no matter what.

Last thing -- what are you most looking forward to about this season?

Mendoza: Just getting out there and being able to play -- getting back on the field. Knowing in my mind I was able to overcome those injuries is the main thing for me. It's great getting back on the field where my friends and family and the fans will be able to see me play.