UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria catches a touchdown pass against Houston defensive… (Thomas Campbell / US Presswire )
Check another one off Joseph Fauria's to-do list.
The UCLA tight end caught a short pass, turned his 6-foot-8, 252-pound frame up field and did a ballet-like leap over Stanford's Michael Thomas on his way to the end zone.
The 13-yard touchdown came in at No. 7 on ESPN's "top 10 plays" of the day.
"One of my goals was to get on top 10 plays," said Fauria, a junior.
What is left on the list gets a little scary.
"Getting on ESPN's 'not top 10 plays,'" Fauria says, smiling at the thought of ending up on that blooper reel.
"But not for anything bad," he assures.
Fauria has become a prominent option for UCLA, which plays Washington State at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night. He has 12 receptions this season, four for touchdowns.
His blossoming skills as a receiver, performed at times by contorting a gangly body that seems as if it was drawn by a cartoonist, is one way he leaves observers shaking their heads.
What can spill out when he opens his mouth is another.
Fauria, who transferred to UCLA after being suspended for a semester for a minor infraction at Notre Dame in 2008, arrived in Westwood toting a personality that requires a break-in period.
"It's unique," Coach Rick Neuheisel says. "You have to learn how to understand Joe."
The short explanation: "I have two personalities and they are polar opposites," Fauria says.
The dividing line is the sideline.
"Anyone who knows Joe knows when it comes to football he is all business," says Kevin Prince, UCLA's backup quarterback.
The evidence was there in the season opener against Houston. Fauria had six catches for 110 yards and a touchdown and has been a go-to guy near the goal line since.
"When you have a 6-8 guy who can make those kind of plays, it makes your life a lot easier," says starting quarterback Richard Brehaut.
UCLA defenders know as well as anyone the difficulty Fauria presents.
"I'm still trying to decide whether to take an angle on him or go behind him or just hit him," safety Tony Dye says. "You've got to respect his game."
It is Fauria's yin to the yang that his offbeat personality presents.
"On the field, I'm serious," Fauria says. "When you hear me talking smack, that's real. I got hit hard against Texas. I heard a couple of their guys say, 'He's not getting up.' I was hurting, but I got up. I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction."
Toughness runs in the family.
Fauria has three uncles who played college football: Lance Fauria at Washington, Quinn Fauria at Northern Arizona and Christian Fauria, who played for Neuheisel at Colorado and then for 13 seasons in the NFL with Seattle, New England, Washington and Carolina.
Neuheisel has seen Joseph improve as a player, which has prompted the people around him to become a little more patient.
"There is definitely a light that goes on when it's game time," Neuheisel says. "Because of that maturity as a player, people are more willing to accept his quirkiness, if you will."
Fauria says he decided as a kid that "I wasn't going to be the big scary guy, the bully."
It helped being an only child. "I was always trying to get the spotlight on me," Fauria says. "I was being raised by mom and grandparents and others in my family. My mom always said it was a village."
And every village has a character.
Fauria's parody songs for the talent show at the end of UCLA training camp are eagerly anticipated.
"He performs them himself; he would have it no other way," Neuheisel said. "He grills everybody. Coaches, players, and the place goes crazy."
But excavating a humorous anecdote from teammates is impossible.
"I could say a million things — none could be on the record," Prince says.
However, Prince did make a prediction:
"He talked about being on the 'top 10 plays,' for a couple years," Prince says. "Now he wants to get on the 'not top 10.' He'll do it. That's Joe."