First and Goal with Chase Minnifield
Junior cornerback Chase Minnifield and the Cavaliers open up ACC play this Saturday when they play host to the Florida State Seminoles at Scott Stadium. Coming off a career day against VMI with two interceptions, the Lexington, Ky., native recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to discuss the victory over the Keydets, stepping up as a defensive leader with early season injuries to Ras-I Dowling and Rodney McLeod, growing up with an NFL Pro-Bowler as a father and the upcoming White Out clash with the Seminoles.
Question: The team came out of last week’s bye to earn a decisive 48-7 victory against VMI Saturday. Just briefly, what are your thoughts on getting the win at home?
Minnifield: It was a fun game. It was a high-intensity game. It was a good game for our program. It was just fun to put up a lot of points and have a good defensive showing.
Question: You were a big part of that impressive defensive performance, snagging a career-high two interceptions against the Keydets. What are you thinking as the quarterback releases the ball and a potential interception opportunity unfolds before you?
Minnifield: I don’t even think there are thoughts. It’s just a blank process. It just happens so fast-it’s all about reactions out there.
Question: Aside from your cornerback responsibilities, you also play an important role on special teams’ as the primary punt returner. With 11 guys running straight for you, there have to be a few more thoughts going through your mind on a play like that, right?
Minnifield: That’s a little bit more of a thinking process. Punt returning requires you to judge a lot of things-not just catching the punt, but making a good decision for your team. There are all sorts of stuff to think about as the ball’s coming toward you.
Question: With teammates Ras-I Dowling and Rodney McLeod both out with injuries against Richmond and USC, you were forced to take on more of a leadership role among the secondary. Was it difficult being thrust into such a role?
Minnifield: Our Virginia program has always been a program that has passed down leadership roles from one generation to the next-at least ever since I’ve been here. That was how it was when Chris [Long] was here, he was a leader, and then he passed it to Vic [Hall], and it’s been passed down the line ever since. Ras-I pulled me aside and told me I was going to have to step up and be a leader for the first few games while he was out, and that’s what I tried to do. I tried to be more vocal, but I also tried to lead by actions. I tried to tell everyone how we needed the game to go.
Question: Even though you got the chance to be a team leader, it still must be nice to have both those guys back now, right?
Minnifield: I’m glad to have them back, but I’m not going to change the role I played while they were out. I’m going to keep on trying to be a leader for this team.
Question: You worked with Coach Poindexter when he coached defensive backs last year and again this season as a member of the special teams’. What is it like playing for him?
Minnifield: Coach Poindexter is just too much fun. He’s all energy-he’s a guy that loves the game, and that’s the kind of people you want around you. The type of people that love their job and love what they do, and love the game. They’re the type of people that bring it everyday.
Question: With Florida State coming to town Saturday, Coach Poindexter must be acting nostalgic about his playing days and when he and the Cavaliers upset the then-No. 2 Seminoles. Have you watched the tape of that famous 1995 goal line stand yet?
Minnifield: I’ve seen it. We went to his house, and his son, Little Dex-A.J.-put that tape on while we were there. I have to say, it was a very good tape. It was one of the best games I’ve seen.
Question: The FSU game will be the team’s first ACC test of the season. Are you excited for the conference schedule to finally get underway?
Minnifield: I can’t wait to get the conference season started. It should be a great atmosphere, and I think we’re ready to show a lot of people that we can really play. We want to prove ourselves out there.
Question: It has already been announced that Saturday’s game will be a White Out, with all fans in attendance receiving white t-shirts on the way into the stadium. Are you looking forward to playing in that kind of atmosphere?
Minnifield: White Outs are always big. I went to one White Out just as a fan at the University of Louisville, and it was a crazy atmosphere. I’m really looking forward to it, and it should be a lot of fun. This will be the first time I’ve been part of something like this, so it’ll be great.
Question: Why do you sport No. 13. Isn’t that considered an unlucky number?
Minnifield: I started off with No. 31 here, but I had to switch my number during my first game because Rashawn Jackson was playing on the same special teams’ unit I was and he had the number first. I actually had to switch it the day of the game at the hotel. Coach Groh came to my room and asked me what number I wanted to wear and then he gave me a list of what was open. Number 13 was the closest to 31 in my mind. It’s turned out to be a good fit. I thought about switching it back this season, but I talked to my dad and he told me to stick with 13. He wore 31, and so he wanted me to make my own identity.
Question: Speaking of your father, he was quite the football player in his own right as a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback with the Cleveland Browns in the late-80s and early-90s. Is it difficult following in his footsteps?
Minnifield: I guess it’s kind of scary because there are a lot of expectations. But my mom always tells me that she expects high expectations out of myself, and I expect high expectations out of myself also. I don’t ever shy away from expectations; I just want to try to exceed them.
Question: Outside of the expectations, there have to be some perks associated with being the son of a former NFL player. Have you made it to any Browns’ games with your dad?
Minnifield: Yeah, I usually go to about two a year. It’s a good atmosphere, and it gets pretty crazy when my dad goes back to Cleveland. When he was playing, I was three, so I don’t remember much about his games. But the fans up there love him, and when he visits, he’s like a rock star to them. It’s good to be with him. It’s always a fun place, and it’s definitely fun times.
Question: So that makes you a Browns’ fan, right?
Minnifield: I like the Browns, but I don’t really have a favorite NFL team. I’m kind of born into the Browns, I guess. I always want them to win, but I still like a lot of other teams. I just like watching football in general.
Question: Now it’s time for some “quick hit” questions. Pre-game meal?
Minnifield: Nothing – maybe for a later game, an apple at the most.
Question: If you could play any sport beside basketball, what would you play?
Question: Favorite Disney movie?
Minnifield: The Lion King
Question: Favorite TV show?
Minnifield: The Tracy Morgan Show
Question: If you could have any super power, which would you choose?