“LOYALTY IN THE TRENCHES”:
INTERVIEW WITH JOHN FINA,
OFFENSIVE TACKLE – BUFFALO BILLS.
«Loyalty is something that guides men in all their actions, so that they always do their best.» This reflection of King Alfonso X El Sabio, collected in the Cantigas de Santa María, constitutes an authentic timeless truth that gains more force in the turbulent times that we have had to live.
Longing for the past times in which our freedom was not imprisoned by the bloody vicissitudes of this ruthless global pandemic, a beautiful story of loyalty, fidelity and selfless love emerged in my memory, which – without a doubt – marked my childhood and pierced, as the constant wave sculpts the rock, my fickle – then – personality. That fable – a mixture of chimera, desire and reality – makes us travel to the far country of the rising sun, its protagonist being a faithful dog, the loyal Hachiko.
The uncertain and capricious fate led Professor Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor in the Department of Agriculture at the University of Tokyo, to find, in early 1924, a box at Shibuya station in which was a puppy of the Akita breed. Hidesaburo believed that the animal had died, having been sent, without food or water, from Akita prefecture, on a long journey of two days. When he got home, he managed to revive the animal and baptized it with the name of Hachi (eight in Japanese), since the animal had its front legs deviated. The word «hachi» is usually represented with the kanji, a Japanese letter that serves to represent the number eight and resembles this deviation of the limbs.
The relationship established between the professor and Hachi was impressive. The dog accompanied his master to the station every day when he went to university. Similarly, at the end of the day, Hachiko returned to the station to receive Hidesaburo. A routine that was established for more than a year. On May 21, 1925, Professor Ueno suffered a cardiac arrest at the University of Tokyo and sadly died. Hachiko waited for his master at the station, as was customary. But that night, the professor didn’t come back… And Hachi wouldn’t be coming home either. The animal – faithful and loyal to its owner – remained for 9 years at that Shibuya station, longing for the arrival of its human friend. On March 8, 1935, Hachiko was found dead at the station, having waited for his master for more than 10 years.
This beautiful story shows selfless love, eternal friendship, to the point of being able to affirm that the dog can be considered the most faithful and most loyal friend of the human being. Extrapolating this beautiful parable to the terrain at hand, no one can deny that the offensive tackle embodies the ultimate example of loyalty and fidelity for a quarterback on the field of play. Sometimes the media spotlight focuses on acrobatic receptions, unusual races, spectacular tackles or prodigious returns. The quarterback is seen as that player, that natural leader, who marks the future of a franchise. But there is a dark, opaque work, carried out by some – misnamed – secondary agents, who really are true heroes and safeguard the integrity of that egregious player who – on many occasions – takes all the perks. This is a story of loyalty, fidelity, effort, tenacity, overcoming … Today goes, from here, our tribute to those leaders of the trenches, whose work is – really – the one that wins championships.
First of all, John, we want to thank you very much, from @BillsMafiaSpain, @CoollegeNation & @TheSpanishBowl, for your full accessibility to grant us this interview. We want to continue bringing American football closer to the Spanish public and to have one of the best offensive tackles of all time, Jim Kelly’s henchman and a player who has played two Super Bowls is – for us – an honor. Thanks, John.
1. In these times of global health crisis, how are you experiencing this tough situation?
I have been fortunate. No one close to me has suffered greatly. My family is healthy and the company i work for has taken very good care of us.
2. We would like to know how you started in the world of football. Where does your love for this sport come from? Were you clear, from the first moment, that your position was in the offensive trenches as an offensive tackle?
I began playing football at the age of 10 in my local park youth league. I have 4 older brothers and I really did not have a choice but to play. I was very uncoordinated when I was young. Tall and skinny. I played both offensive and defensive line.
3. After finishing your stage at Salpointe Catholic High School, it was time to make the leap to university. How do you remember the recruiting process?
My recruitment was very minimal. I was still rather unknown, tall and skinny. Not very strong either. I had 3 opportunities which were University of New Mexico, Colorado State and University of Arizona.
4. In your high school stage, you were selected in your senior year in the first team All-State. How do you feel being one of the few Salpointe Catholic High School players to have your jersey removed?
It was a great honor to be All-State. I didn’t really expect it. I played very hard all the time because I hated to lose. I take losses very hard. When Salpointe retired my number I was very excited. It is such an honor because Salpointe athletics are very strong.
5. Eleven games played in the -then- Pac-10 playing for the Wildcats, what is the game that you remember the most from your college days?
I remember playing my senior year at Ohio State and playing against a very highly rate defensive end. I handled him very well and from that moment people began to recognize me as a player. Another game of great memory was when we beat Oklahoma in Tucson by a score of just 6-3. That game put us on the map.
6. How do you experience the enormous rivalry between the Arizona Wildcats and the Arizona State Sun Devils in College Football?
It is possibly the most bitter rivalry in the country . the entire season is boiled down to one game and the bragging rights to it. The fans are extremely crazy for this game and often behave very poorly.
7. You were selected in the first round – ranked 27th overall – in the 1992 NFL Draft, how do you remember that night? Were there a lot of nerves?
I was late to the draft party and showed up at about pick 16. I did not expect to be drafted so soon after. The feeling was indescribable when my name was called. I was so excited I could hardly even think. My parents were in Spain and Portugal at the time and only found out when they called a friend back in Tucson. The whole country of Spain could hear my parents cheering when they found out.
8. You are selected by the Buffalo Bills, who had already played two Super Bowls, was it a dream destination? Would you prefer a franchise closer to home?
It was a dream! My parents grew up in Rochester NY only 60 miles away and I have many cousins, aunts and uncles all over the area. 4-5 times each year my parents came to NY to see family when in the past it was just 1 time every 5 years! It was magical to have caused my family to reunite so often.
9. Arriving in Buffalo, how was a rookie player received on a clear contender and contender for the NFL title?
Rookies are teased quite a lot in those days. I had to buy drinks and food. Do silly little things to prove myself AND practice at the highest level to prove myself each day. The teammates were great guys and like GODS to me. I did my best to listen and learn every day.
10. Can you tell us about that myth called Marv Levy?
It is true that Marv is a LEGEND ! every great story about him is real and he was such an amazing leader. He knew the game – he knew people – he trusted – he cared and he loved football !
His motivational speeches were incredible. As a WWII historian he told us about the allied forces battling to save us from the Nazi and Japanese threat. He is among the wisest people ive ever known.
11. Tell us about that legend named Jim Kelly…
Jim Kelly was like a General who fought along side you in battle. A very loyal teammate and the biggest competitor I have ever known. Jim didn’t mince words. When you didn’t play well he let you know. And when you did he rewarded you with praise.
12. The left tackle is the player in charge of protecting the quarterback’s blind side. In your years as a starter, which rival player do you consider to have been the most difficult opponent you have faced?
There were so many great men I played against. The left tackle was very hard in buffalo because we rarely ever had help. Solo all the time. Very stressful. Charles Haley (hall of fame) was the best I had ever played agains.
13. How did you experience that dynamic and dizzying offensive system called “No Huddle” on the grass?
First of all… you had to be fit – able to run and think very fast ¡ i liked it because it fit my style. I was smaller than many offensive linemen but i was fast and stayed on my feet.
14. In your second year at Buffalo Bills, you already landed the starting job as K-Gun’s left tackle, was the transition from college to professional hard on you?
It was very hard. Bruce Smith kicked my butt every day in training camp. Many people said I couldn’t do it and the stress was very high. I made many mistakes in practices but Kent Hull – Jim Ritcher and Glenn Parker helped my along and gave me confidence.
15. You lived through the magical “The comeback” for the entire Bills Mafia, how do you remember that historic comeback against the Oilers?
I do !!! I couldn’t believe it when it was happening. The exhilaration of each touchdown gave us hope even when we probably shouldn’t have had any. I was on the field for the winning field goal and the fans that stayed made the noise of 500,000 people!
16. Two Super Bowls lost to the Dallas Cowboys. Is losing two championship finals perhaps the toughest moment for a professional athlete?
Not at all. I have so much pride in being there. we fought hard but lost. There are thousands of players who never even came close to the super bowl. I wear my rings with great pride.
17. You were the first player in Buffalo Bills history to receive the franchise tag. What did this event mean to you?
I was shocked ! it was a great honor to be so valuable to the organization. It really meant they believed in me and that I was an important part of the plans going forward.
18. What is the best memory you have of the city of Buffalo and the Bills Mafia?
Bills fans are just the best. After each home game I would stop at tailgate parties and eat and drink with people I didn’t even know. They loved us and we loved them. It is even crazier now! Around town fans were so nice and respectful, it was always a pleasure to talk to them.
19. You served as a judge on the TV show «Food Wars.» If you had to recommend a restaurant and a meal in Arizona, what would your recommendations be?
We have great food in Tucson ! we have great Italian food at Vivace and Locale. Mexican food is everywhere and is very good. We even have a great restaurant with Paella Valenciana at Contigo and Casa Vicente. You come here and I will show you all the great food. Including Ethiopian at Zemam’s.
20. We know that you know Spain and that you have family in Seville. What do you like the most about Seville? Have you ever thought about coming to live in Spain?
I don’t think I will live in Spain but I want to come back soon to see my family (exchange students that we love). A shout out to Familia Candau in the old city center of Sevilla. They are sisters and brothers to me. When I was on honeymoon in Italy my wife and I traveled to Spain for the wedding of my Spanish brother Alberto. It was beyond amazing!
Years before I came during Semana Santa and Arturo gave us tours behind the scenes of the Pasos and fraternities. Alberto was a costalero that year. We drank CruzCampo and tinto. The tapas were incredible and my favorite was a tiny place that served caracoles in basil sauce.
To the great #BillsMafiaSpain thank you for this chance to share with you. It would be a dream to come to Sevilla again to eat and drink with you in the winding streets of Sevilla. We will watch the shadows grown long from La Giralda and hear the roars from the Corrida de Toros. We can stroll through the mazes of the Moorish streets and admire families walking the cobblestones arm in arm.
I hope you are all healthy and loved. May your families stay close to your hearts.
And above all else… #GoBills !
🔴🔵⚪️ #GoBills 🦬 🦬🦬 #BillsMafia ⚪️🔵🔴
@BillsMafia Spain – @CoollegeNation – @EduVall82