Month: April 2016

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Jason Momoa

Jason_Momoa_Supercon_2014

Jason Momoa’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. The 36-year-old actor has gone from stocking Hawaiian shirts in surf shops to starring in beloved TV shows, working with film icons like Sylvester Stallone, earning a gig as a superhero, and becoming a new standard for masculine characters.

Momoa has had an intriguing career, which is fitting considering his unique upbringing. An only child, he was born into an artistic family: his mom, Coni is a photographer, and his father Joseph is a painter. Momoa’s mom, who is of mostly German and Irish descent, raised him in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, but Momoa would travel to Hawaii in the summer to visit his father. Because of this, Momoa developed both a love for art and a love for travel early in his life.

After graduating high school, Momoa bounced around a couple of different colleges in Iowa, Florida, and Colorado while studying both marine and wildlife biology. He didn’t graduate, but Momoa continued to broaden his horizons, spending time in places as diverse as Paris and Tibet. He also developed interests in pastel painting and Buddhist spirituality.

At age 19, Momoa was discovered by international designer Takeo Kobayashi, who advised him to start a modeling career. He was named Hawaii’s Model of the Year in 1999 and that helped him gain a role on the TV spinoff Baywatch: Hawaii. While it was a major role that lasted for three seasons, Momoa’s career stagnated briefly after the show concluded; he once claimed that no one took him seriously after Baywatch.

Fortunately for Momoa, in 2005, he got a major part in the beloved cult classic show Stargate Atlantis, portraying the alien Ronon Dex. Often compared favorably to Chewbacca by Stargate fans, the character was an instant hit and Momoa received critical praise for the role. He also received a role as a series regular on the short-lived Hawaiian soap opera North Shore, appearing in 21 episodes and portraying a character named Frankie Seau.

However, for Momoa, the real fun began in 2011, when he landed his breakthrough role as the fierce warrior Khal Drogo in HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. During his audition, he performed the Haka – the traditional New Zealand war dance that is associated with the All-Blacks (who happen to be Momoa’s favorite rugby team). He came away with the part and to this day, it remains Momoa’s most recognizable role, receiving critical acclaim for his performance in Season One.

Following the huge success of Game of Thrones, Momoa began to branch out into film work, starring in 2012 action thriller Bullet to the Head with Sylvester Stallone, and also portraying the title role in the 2011 remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger action film Conan the Barbarian. While the remake of Conan was a box-office bomb, the film got the attention of director Zack Snyder, who cast Momoa in the upcoming Aquaman movie. Momoa also recently filmed the dark comedy Sugar Mountain with Cary Elwes; it is set to be released in late 2016.

When he’s not acting or painting, Momoa can usually be found spending time with his wife Lisa and their two young children, Lola (age nine) and Nakoa-Wolf (age eight). He’s a fitness enthusiast, having learned martial arts for his role on Conan the Barbarian, and also developing a love for biking, rock-climbing, and snowboarding. In addition to being a big fan of the All-Blacks in rugby union, Momoa is also a supporter of the Port Adelaide Power in the Australian Football League (AFL).

 

Advertisements

Looking ahead to fall camp

181516026

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

  • Coach Martin hasn’t tipped his hand in the quarterback competition so far. Watching the spring game, I was very impressed with Conner Cramer, a transfer from New Mexico Military Institute. Junior Tyler Rogers continues to recover well from the fractured thumb he suffered against UNM last season. Sophomore Nick Jeanty still has a way to go, but he looks to have matured from last year as well.
  • The real competition will begin when heralded transfer Tyler Matthews arrives on campus in the fall. Matthews, a graduate transfer from Southern Miss, was a four-star recruit out of high school and will be favored to win the starting QB job in his final season of eligibility. NMSU also signed his younger brother, Cameron Matthews, in February.
  • All-American running back Larry Rose III looks to have an explosive junior year, and this time he’ll have depth behind him. Coaches are excited about junior Osirius Burke, a San Jose State transfer who sat out last season, as well as redshirt freshman Brandyn Leonard. Think power with Burke and speed with Leonard.
  • The Aggies suffered a blow at receiver with senior Teldrick Morgan asking for his release at the end of the spring. He will receive his degree in May and is debating whether he’ll play elsewhere as a grad student in the fall.
  • The real story of the spring was the trio of JUCO receivers who are looking to replace Morgan’s production. Johnathan Boone, Josh Aganon, and Jaleel Scott are all explosive in different ways, and they’ll complement returnees Greg Hogan and Tyrian Taylor. Boone and Scott are speedy deep threats, while Aganon is a smaller playmaker who looks to replace the graduated Josh Bowen.
  • Coach Martin spoke very highly of slot receiver Royce Caldwell in spring practice. Caldwell, the fastest player on the team, has made leaps and bounds this spring, according to Martin. He’ll also prove to be valuable on kick and punt returns. I also liked what I saw from youngster Izaiah Lottie in the spring game.
  • The offensive line still doesn’t have a ton of depth, but coaches have expressed confidence in the starting five, which includes returning starters Abram Holland, Anthony McMeans, and Dezmond Candelarie. Coaches are excited about 6’6″ redshirt freshman Sebastian Anderson at left tackle, and were also pleased with the development of backup center Brian Trujillo. The Albuquerque native is a smart, versatile kid who suffered a shoulder injury towards the end of spring drills, but he’ll be back in the fall.
  • The defensive line has had its moments in the spring, but it’ll be hard to judge until several newcomers arrive in fall camp (most notably, JUCO transfers Bobby Hill and DeShawnte Lloyd). Junior Kourtland Busby has shown rapid improvement and can be a quality run stuffer when healthy. The Aggies’ run defense appears to have improved, but they still need to have a more consistent pass rush.
  • Linebacker is probably still the strength of our defense, even with several players out with injuries. Juniors Dalton Herrington and Derek Ibekwe both recorded 11 tackles in the spring game. Senior Rodney Butler, a team captain, is Mr. Consistency.
  • The safeties look to make a bigger impact in Year Two under position coach Brian Bell. The Aggies got bad news when veteran Kawe Johnson had to give up football due to concussion issues, but they return juniors Jaden Wright and Jacob Nwangwa, both of whom are fast kids who can cover well and provide quality run support. Behind them are improving youngsters Malik Demby and Christian Gibson. Demby forced a fumble in the spring game, while Gibson made two interceptions.
  • Cornerback remains a question mark. New defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani also coaches the corners, and he’s expecting immediate improvement. While NMSU has definitely improved in pass defense, they’re still replacing both starters at cornerback. Junior Jerrion Burton is a bit undersized, while Samuel Oyenuga and King Davis III have struggled with injuries. However, sophomore Demarcus Owens really came on towards the end of last season, making two INTs in the final two games. He’ll enter the fall as an established starter.
  • Kicker Parker Davidson took his lumps last year as a true freshman, but he hit all of his field goal and PAT attempts in the spring game. He reportedly has the highest GPA on the team, too.
  • At punter, the Aggies added junior Max Wren in the spring and he showed potential. They also used a scholarship on Phoenix area punter Payton Theisler in February.

STAFF CONTINUITY

  • For the first time in many years, NMSU benefitted from continuity on the coaching staff in the offseason. Apart from bringing in Spaziani, only one assistant left in the winter.
  • Former defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Zane Vance changed positions in the offseason. His title is now assistant head coach/defensive ends/special teams coordinator. Defensive ends coach Oliver Soukup (an Aggie alum) has moved to linebackers.
  • Graduate assistant and former NMSU quarterback Matt Christian was promoted to full-time running backs coach in January.

SCHEDULE

  • The schedule is going to be intense right away, with both rivalry games in the first two weeks of the season – UTEP in El Paso in Week One, followed by UNM at home. Both should promise to be competitive, and a win against one (or both) would go a long way.
  • In the Sun Belt Conference schedule, the Aggies will play Appalachian State (home) and South Alabama (away) for the first time in program history. Georgia State and Louisiana-Monroe move off the schedule.
  • NMSU gets two money games against SEC teams – one against Kentucky on September 17th and one against Texas A&M on October 29th.
  • The homecoming game will be against Louisiana-Lafayette on October 1st.
  • The annual Tough Enough to Wear Pink game is on October 22nd versus the Georgia Southern Eagles.

STAYING HEALTHY (MOSTLY)

  • The Aggies have had a few minor bumps and bruises, but according to Coach Martin, almost everybody will be back for fall camp. With improved depth, this means good things are ahead, and speaks highly for our strength and conditioning program.
  • Sophomore linebacker Javahn Fergurson is the only player right now who looks to redshirt due to injury. He had surgery for shin splints in the offseason and might have to sit out the year.
  • Three defensive linemen – Kalei Auelua, Stody Bradley, and Brandon Agomuo – have also been slower to rehab injuries than some of their peers, but again, they’ll be back in the fall.

INJURED LIST:

Note: all will be healthy for fall camp (as mentioned previously).

  • OL Thomas McGwire (knee)
  • RB Brandyn Leonard (knee)
  • OL Brian Trujillo (shoulder)
  • WR Isaiah McIntyre (knee)
  • DE Kalei Auelua (knee)
  • LB Terrill Hanks (shoulder)
  • DE Brandon Agomuo (knee)
  • WR Cassius Corley (shoulder)
  • DE Stody Bradley (knee)
  • LB Robert Wagner (knee)
  • S Tre Wilcoxen
  • TE Jackson Solbeck

Spring game recap

Yesterday, I got a chance to head to Las Cruces for the day and see the Aggies play their spring game. It was an entertaining experience, and I came away impressed with the defense’s improvement.

On offense, the play-calling was very vanilla, as was to be expected in a scrimmage. All three quarterbacks took snaps on different drives, and the defense could score points via sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, etc.

  • Junior QB Tyler Rogers started the game with the first team offense, completing seven of 13 passes for 158 yards. He’s still got some improvement to do, but Rogers showed a solid command of the offense and good chemistry with his receivers. “This spring, I think I got better fundamentally and working well within the offense,” Rogers said.
  • Junior college transfer Conner Cramer made a good impression in his first time in an NMSU uniform. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 173 yards, engineering two scoring drives in the process (although he did throw an interception).
  • Sophomore QB Nick Jeanty has shown improved patience in the pocket and has a strong arm, but he still overthrew some open receivers and isn’t as mobile as Rogers or Cramer. Give him another year and he’ll shine.

On defense, linebackers Dalton Herrington and Derek Ibekwe (both juniors) led the team with 11 tackles apiece. Redshirt freshman safety Christian Gibson had two impressive interceptions, and sophomore Malik Demby forced a fumble against tight end Clayton Granch.

While it was certainly the defense’s day, the offense moved the ball fairly well most of the day. Coach Martin called a pretty vanilla game plan by design, but Rogers and Cramer specifically helped move the ball through the air.

San Jose State transfer Osirius Burke was the real highlight, rushing for two scores. He’s more of a downhill, ground-and-pound runner to accommodate the lightning-quick Larry Rose III. He and senior Xavier Hall were to go-to backs, as Martin limited Rose’s carries. Redshirt freshman Brandyn Leonard is recuperating from a injury and was held out of the spring game, but he’ll be back in the fall.

Speaking of which, it was all the more impressive that the defense posted such good numbers, given the fact that three linebackers (Robert Wagner, Terrill Hanks and Javahn Fergurson) are currently out due to injuries. Veterans such as Ibekwe, Herrington, and Rodney Butler made a heck of an impression.

I do think that the secondary needs to be more consistent, but this defense has improved in quantum leaps compared to this time last year. New coordinator Frank Spaziani is molding his pupils into a no-frills, fundamentally sound unit, and I couldn’t be happier to see it.