Nov. 19, 2001
By Trent Packer
It isn’t every day that you find a football player who is also an accomplished artist. Perhaps that’s why Virginia tight end Chris Luzar has become a media favorite in recent months. Luzar graduated last May with a degree in studio art. For his senior art show, Luzar set up a display of his “chain saw sculptures” in the football locker room at the Carl Smith Center, home of David A Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium. A story about these sculptures – which the senior fashions out of tree trunks and limbs salvaged from the University’s landscape dump – in this year’s media guide has triggered a number of feature stories from various media outlets.
Luzar has happily answered the same questions time and time again, helping people resolve the paradox of starting Atlantic Coast Conference football player and blossoming artist.
“[The media] definitely talks about that more than football, especially at the beginning of the season,” Luzar says. “It has been real easy as far as interviews go. I’ve just answered the same questions about 100 times.”
Luzar makes an interesting story topic for other reasons as well. Take, for instance, the fact that Luzar has spent the last three seasons playing alongside his younger brother, Kase. Chris and Kase are one of only two sets of siblings on the Cavaliers, along with Bryson and Tyree Spinner.
Both Luzars are tight ends, and the pair has found itself together on the field a number of times this season. In years past, Chris and Kase rarely saw the field together. Last year Chris was the team’s second tight end, while Kase spent most of his redshirt freshman season on special teams during kickoff returns and extra point/ field goal attempts.
This season, Chris is UVa’s No. 1 option at tight end and Kase is a backup. Both have been on the field for significant amounts of time this year.
“It has been a lot of fun playing with my brother,” Chris says. “This year we have been on the field at the same time and in the same huddle.”
Although Chris asserts that when they were young the two never talked about the possibility of playing together in college, he says the experience has been exciting nonetheless.
“We never really said it would be cool to play together,” Chris says, “it just kind of happened.”
As if the artist angle and the sibling story weren’t enough, Chris’ emergence as one of Virginia’s most consistent pass receiving targets also makes for an intriguing article. After catching a total of 20 passes over his first three years, Chris already had 28 grabs this season through nine games. He was tied for second on the team in receptions with wide receiver Michael McGrew, behind team leader Billy McMullen. Luzar also ranked second on the team in receiving yards per game, averaging 34.9 yards per outing.
“It’s been a lot of fun catching more balls this year,” Luzar says.
As a tight end, Luzar also has blocking responsibilities. In the past, it was the job of blocking that gave Luzar the most trouble on the football field. This season, however, he has improved his blocking skills. Luzar dedicated himself to getting stronger over the summer, and spent countless hours in the weight room trying to accomplish that goal. Luzar, who is one of eight Cavaliers participating on this year’s team as a graduate student, has also had more time during the day to devote to football. His schedule as a graduate student has enabled him to get to the football offices earlier than in the past, which gives him the opportunity to watch more film.
The results have given Luzar much more confidence in the blocking area of his game. Whereas in the past he clearly enjoyed receiving more than blocking due to his proficiency as a pass catcher, he now says he has no preference between the two responsibilities.
“I really don’t think about [whether I like blocking or running more] this year,” Luzar says. “In the past I would have said I liked receiving more.
“I think that is because I wasn’t as good at blocking, but now I am having fun doing it and I’m half-way good at it. I worked real hard in the weight room to get a lot bigger and stronger and that has been the main difference between this year and last year.”
Luzar’s dedication to blocking was not only a function of his desire to get better individually. He also knew that, with the departure of last year’s starting tight end Billy Baber, it was up to him to fill the vacated slot.
“Any time a senior leaves, you know you have to step up your game,” Luzar says. “You know you are going to get some more playing time, so [Baber leaving] did motivate me.”
Chris Luzar has quite a few interesting stories to tell. He is both an accomplished artist and a standout football player. He is also a part of one of only two pairs of brothers on the Cavaliers, and is one of just eight players on this year’s squad participating as a graduate student. From his “chain saw sculptures” to his emergence as a top Virginia receiver, Luzar has answered myriad media requests so far this season. That is the price he pays for refuting stereotypes that say football players and artists don’t mix.