SAN DIEGO — First, Brett Faryniarz gained maturity. Then, the San Diego State defensive end gained weight.
There is a correlation between the two for Faryniarz, who used to be as carefree as he was thin.
That's carefree as in being suspended from the team for a week in 1986 because he went to Mexico and missed a spring-practice scrimmage. That's thin as in standing 6 feet 3 inches and weighing 198 pounds and lining up against 300-pound linemen.
But when SDSU lines up in its season opener against UCLA Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, Faryniarz will weigh 235 pounds.
He looks different, and his teammates and coaches say he is acting differently.
"The strides he has made as a player are in direct proportion to his commitment to the game," assistant coach Dan Underwood said.
"I always liked to work hard," said Faryniarz, who lettered at linebacker his first two years with the Aztecs and started every game at defensive end last season. "But, I knew I had go beyond my limit and push it (this summer)."
Faryniarz points to three things that have made a difference.
"I think it was the (Western Athletic Conference) championship and seeing our team go straight up instead of kind of up and down, peaks and valleys. And the combination of winning a championship, seeing this building being built over there and this being my senior year.
As Faryniarz talked, work continued nearby on the new football operations center, but the real building, for him, took place over the summer. He had tried to gain weight before, but was never very successful.
This time, Faryniarz maintained a diet regimen that was heavy on carbohydrates, and he stuck to a strict weightlifting program. There was less partying and more sleep.
"You push beyond your limit," Faryniarz said. "You give up things that you normally like to do, like go out on Saturday night and have a few beers, or whatever. I gave up all that during the summer. I stayed away from the alcohol and got real serious about this game."
Faryniarz also cut back on trips to visit his girlfriend in Los Angeles.
"She liked it and she didn't like it," Faryniarz said. "She liked it because she knew it's what I wanted, so it made me happy and made her happy. But she was kind of getting bummed out because she lives in L.A., and I couldn't go up there very much. When I went up there, she wouldn't have the food I wanted to eat."
Or enough of it. Faryniarz ate five meals a day. The meals consisted of pasta, tuna, red meat, pancakes and pastries. And he ate two or three peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches before bed. When you have very high rate of metabolism, as Faryniarz does, you can "diet" like that.
"He ate a lot of foods that would make a normal person like you or me fat after a week," said Dave Ohton, the team's strength and conditioning coach.
Faryniarz became solid rather than fat. Linebacker Chuck Nixon, who was Faryniarz's roommate for three years, said he "barely recognized" Faryniarz when drills began a few weeks ago.
"They used to call me 'Biff' because my freshman year I was a skinny 190-pound blond-haired guy and I was in a fraternity," Faryniarz said. "Now, they can joke around and call me a physical specimen or whatever."
One measure of a football player's strength and endurance is the number of times he can lift 225 pounds. The norm, according to Underwood, is between 17 and 20 times. Faryniarz reached 24 times this summer. Previously, the best Underwood had seen was during his days at Michigan State and Arizona State when former MSU linebacker Paul Rudzinski lifted 225 pounds 23 times.
That's not the only lift Faryniarz has give the Aztecs. He'll be the team captain for Saturday's game.
"He is one of the new leadership group members that is definitely appearing," Coach Denny Stolz said. "No question about it. And he should be. He's that caliber of player. He has super intelligence, and he should be a leader."
Is Stolz talking about the same guy he suspended for a week during spring football in 1986? That was after Faryniarz missed a spring-practice scrimmage on a Saturday morning because he was in San Felipe.
"I didn't plan on staying down in Mexico for the scrimmage. I got up at like 5:30 in the morning looking for a ride back, looking for someone to lend me a car," Faryniarz said. "I was looking all over and nobody was offering. It was just a bad situation. I was stuck down there."
When Faryniarz couldn't find a ride back to San Diego, he spent the day in San Felipe.
"I shouldn't have even gone down (to Mexico) in the first place," Faryniarz said. "It was just a stupid mistake on my part."
When Faryniarz finally returned to SDSU, he had to face the consequences.