By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE – On a recruiting trip to the Cleveland area, Virginia’s offensive line coach, Garett Tujague, was delighted to learn that Chris Glaser, a talented lineman from Solon High School, had spent most of his childhood in Ewa Beach, Hawaii.
Two of Tujague’s fellow assistants – offensive coordinator Robert Anae and running backs coach Mark Atuaia – are from Hawaii, and they’d enjoyed success recruiting the state when they were at BYU. Atuaia, it turned out, had attended Kahuku High School on Oahu with one of Glaser’s uncles.
“When we figured that out, it was pretty cool,” Glaser said this week at the McCue Center.
Atuaia smiled when asked about the connection. “Everybody knows everybody in Hawaii, for the most part,” he said.
Glaser’s father, Chris Sr., was born in Ohio and grew up in Youngstown and Akron. But he later joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Hawaii, where he met his wife, Patricia, and where Chris Jr. was born.
“And then somehow he got 19 of his 20 years [in the Navy] there,” Glaser said.
The family lived there until Chris Sr., a chief petty officer, retired. Then the Glasers relocated to Solon, Ohio, about 20 miles southeast of Cleveland, before Chris Jr.’s freshman year of high school.
“That’s got to stink, going from Hawaii to Cleveland,” former UVA linebacker Steve Greer said, laughing.
Greer, mind you, has nothing against his hometown. Unlike Hawaii, however, the Rust Belt has never has been described as a tropical paradise.
Before joining the program at Virginia, where he ranks eighth in career tackles with 376, Greer starred at Solon High. From the coaches there, Greer heard good things about Glaser, who originally committed to Miami (Ohio) of the Mid-American Conference.
Glaser later withdrew his pledge to Miami and ultimately chose Virginia over Syracuse and Iowa State.
“I was super pumped to have another Solon guy coming to UVA,” said Greer, who now lives in Columbus and works for Stryker Corporation, a medical technology company.
“We felt lucky and privileged to get him,” Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall said of No. 69.
Glaser, who’s young for his class, was only 17 when he enrolled at UVA last season. He made his debut in the ninth game of the regular season – Virginia’s win over Georgia Tech at Scott Stadium – and ended up starting two games at right offensive tackle.
This season, Glaser has been starting at left guard for UVA (1-1), which meets Ohio (1-0) at 4:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. ESPN2 will televise the game, which was originally set for Scott Stadium. It was moved because of the threat of severe weather in Central Virginia.
At 6-3, Glaser isn’t as tall as many offensive linemen in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, but he’s “a very good athlete,” Anae said. “He could possibly be a defensive lineman. He’s that athletic.”
Glaser, who turns 19 next month, has also practiced at center. For now, though, he’s focused on guard, where he’s been starting next to left tackle Ryan Nelson and center Dillon Reinkensmeyer.
“We’re honing him at a spot so that he can grow,” Anae said. “Because right now he’s still green in terms of offensive lineman development.”
Reinkensmeyer has developed a strong on-field rapport with fifth-year senior Jake Fieler, who started nine games at right guard last season.
“We know what to expect from each other,” Reinkensmeyer said, “and I think we anticipate what each other is going to do.”
With Glaser, who’s not as experienced at guard, “we’re still kind of figuring out all the nuances of it,” Reinkensmeyer said, “but we’ve got a really good [start].”
When he arrived at UVA last summer, Glaser recalled, “I came in 95-percent sure I was going to be an O-lineman. But then when I got here, [defensive line coach Vic So’oto] was kind of talking to me a little bit. Especially in that beginning phase when I was still 270, 280 [pounds], they were still talking about whether I’d be on the defensive line.”
Glaser smiled. “Coach Tujague did not like that at all. He hates when people think that they can take me from the O-line.”
Guard is a good fit for him, Glaser said, “but I think if I went back to tackle or Coach needed me at center, I’d feel comfortable at any spot.”
He won’t encounter any former Solon High teammates when UVA meets Ohio, but “I have a ton of friends that go there, and there’s a lot of smack-talking right now over text,” Glaser said.
In January 2017, Glaser returned to his home state to play in the Polynesian Bowl. The UVA program has three coaches of Polynesian heritage – Anae, Atuaia and Vic So’oto – but Glaser was the only player on the roster with that distinction last season.
That’s no longer the case. The Wahoos’ first-year class includes defensive linemen Aaron Faumui and Samson Reed, offensive lineman Micah Mariteragi and running back Wayne Taulapapa. All are from Hawaii.
“They know where I grew up,” Glaser said, “and I know exactly where they grew up.”
Faumui is from Kapolei, where Glaser went to middle school.
“I didn’t know Aaron or any of these guys [in Hawaii],” Glaser said, “but having them come out here and then meeting their families and having them meet my family, it’s been great. I love it.”
Mendenhall and most of his assistants came to UVA from BYU after the 2015 season. Polynesians make up a significant portion of the Cougars’ roster.
At UVA, Mendenhall said, the staff was “surprised that there was a willingness based on what we had done at BYU and existing relationships, for coaches in Hawaii and families to want their [players and] sons to play for us. We thought it was too far, as a matter of fact.
“But what we found is after some visits, even with players not [signing with UVA], the word [came] back that it’s an amazing place. They already knew about our staff. What we’re finding is for the right player and the fight fit, this could be a really good place.”
That’s been the case for Glaser, who lives with teammates PK Kier, Terrell Jana and Zane Zandier.
“Classes are hard, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge,” said Glaser, who’s leaning toward majoring in economics.
In the Cleveland area, he became accustomed to cold winters. His new teammates from Hawaii, Glaser said with a smile, have no idea what awaits them.
“I remember talking to them, and they’re excited to see snow and everything, and that’s how I was when I first moved to Cleveland,” he said.
“They won’t have to shovel snow, but I remember shoveling snow in high school, and it was no fun.”
After playing last season at about 275 pounds, Glaser is up to 300 after training for nine months with Shawn Griswold, who took over in January as UVA’s director of football performance and development. He’s better suited now for the battles up front.
“Last year I got thrown around sometimes by other teams, like Miami, Louisville, Virginia Tech,” Glaser said. “But this year I feel a big difference.”