Just the mention of the name Marcell Dareus to any true football fan conjures up images of the Buffalo Bills’ six-foot-three-inch, 330-pound brick wall mowing down quarterbacks, breaking up passes and smashing running backs into the astroturf. And he’s been doing this for some time now.
During his college years, the 2010 BCS National Championship Game defensive MVP helped lead the University of Alabama onto their 37-21 victory against Texas Longhorns. And since being selected third overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, he wears the number 99 on his chest like a loaded double barrel.
But when his big guns are unloaded, on safety and he’s not ripping offensive players apart like a rag doll, the Birmingham, Ala. native is the direct opposite as the wild man on the field. When unwinding with his pampered English bulldog Diva, Marcell doesn’t call the shots. Diva does.
Why do you call her Diva?
She takes over the room when she in there and knows how to get everyone's attention. So she's always been a diva in my book.
Tell us a little about her personality.
She’s kind of lazy, more of a laidback kind of dog. When I come home from practice and just relax, I play with for little bit and she gets tired and falls to sleep right with me. She’s just real chill and relaxed.
Is there any reason you wanted an English bulldog?
I like their background. They’re strong and still smart and sweet at the same time. I look at myself when I look at her. They’re real nice dogs, relaxed and kind.
So you think your dog shares some of your personality traits?
I think the dog is like me almost. It’s like I get to relax and chill with myself.
Do you get to do anything special with your dog on your leisure time when you’re not on the field?
We actually do things like when I come home, we run around the house for a little bit until she gets tired or we just chill and wind down, just us two.
I can tell that spending time with her is important to you.
Oh yeah, I spend a lot of quality time with her. I look at it just like having a kid. You have to take care of them.
Do you have any special advice for someone who is considering getting a dog?
I’ve had dogs all my life and the best thing I can tell you is to treat your dogs with respect. They have feelings too. I make sure she’s fed. She eats and she's walked.
You mentioned you had dogs growing up. What kind of dogs did you have?
I had Collies all the way to Rottweilers. My mom liked dogs, so we always had one. Rocky was the Rottweiler. We had a Collie. We named her Lassie [laughs]. She looked just like Lassie. Everybody had an all-black dog called Midnight.
Do you have any other dogs besides Diva?
We have a Chihuahua named Sassy. She's not here right now. She's at my uncle’s house. We had a hot dog; we called her Red Hot [laughs]. We had all kind of dogs, all the time.
Do you travel with Diva?
Yeah, Diva comes to New York with me. She chills out with me there or I get her shipped back to Birmingham so she can be with the family. So she goes on trips just like the family does.
So you feel it’s important to keep your dog socialized?
She’s a part of the family. She’s there with the family. So if the family can come, she can go too.
Do you ever think about getting Diva another canine companion?
Yeah, I thought about it. When she gets older, we'll get her one.
Any breed in particular?
Probably another English bulldog.
You ever thought about adopting a dog? You know; there are a lot of homeless dogs in shelters that need a good home.
That’s kind of what I want do. I want to do that. I have to get into a couple of shelters and see what they have to offer and what type of programs they got. My brother and I can get into it and we all can adopt some dogs. I’d love to have Diva a companion from the shelter.
Do you do any special pampering for Diva?
Awww…she's always washed. She’s always clean and smelling good. Right now, she has her toenails painted. She always gets extra pampering. Everyone loves on her. She's a big baby.
I see her toenails are painted red now.
Yeah, University of Alabama Crimson Tide red. My brother and I take her down to Tuscaloosa sometimes. She's part of the family, the University of Alabama.
Since you're a professional football player and I’m sure you’re aware of the Mike Vick situation, do you think Vick has recovered from the whole ordeal?
I really think he recovered from the situation. But you got to live with the consequences and I know he has become a better man through it. I think it humbled him and I know he wouldn't try to do it again.
Tell me some things a responsible dog owner might do?
A responsible dog owner, of course, feeds their dogs. Don't let your dog go hungry. Don't leave your dog out for hours and hours with no attention. Responsible dog owners should be smart and take care of their dog.
So does Diva stay with you here in Birmingham?
In the offseason, Diva stays here with me and during the in-season she's with me in Buffalo for half of the year. So I get a chance to see her and I get a chance to bring her back home.
Is she the only dog you have?
Yeah Diva and my Chihuahua Sassy.
How do Diva and your Chihuahua get along when they’re together?
They get along pretty well. Sassy just jumps around everywhere and Diva is more relaxed.
Throughout the shoot, I noticed the interaction and close bond with you and Diva? How did that come about?
Well always taking care of her. Dogs know who takes care of them. I spend time with her. I feed her. We spend a good bit of time together. So she knows I’m her safe haven. She knows she can come to me.