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Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Updated: April 12, 1:37 PM ET
One-on-one with Matt Leinart

By Mary Buckheit
Page 2

Last month, ESPN.com voters dubbed NFL draft prospect Matt Leinart the Hottest Male Athlete of the Year. With good reason. The SoCal stud stands 6-foot-5, weighs a chiseled 225 (when he's not holding his Heisman) and has sprinkled touchdown passes and national titles all over the sunny streets of La La Land. If they gave out an Oscar for Biggest Man On Campus, Matty would win walking away -- and his impressive armful of lovely lady friends could rival any leading lad's in Hollywood.

Knowing all this, we decided to send our own Mary Buckheit -- Page 2 writer and resident Barbie expert -- to crack the core of this Ken doll and ultimately place the crown upon the deserving tresses of this Man of Troy.


How did you find out that you, Matt Leinart, are ESPN.com's Hottest Male Athlete?

Let's see, I was with my agent, and my publicist called, and we were all having this discussion about things that weren't necessarily good. Then, all of a sudden, my publicist said, "Buh-ht, Matt was voted ESPN.com's Hottest Male Athlete today." I just started laughing.

Matt Leinart
ESPN.com's Hottest Male Athlete prefers shorts and sweats to suit and tie.

Laughing? You didn't put your hand to your mouth and tear up?

No, but it was definitely flattering. It's just something that I would never expect to win. I didn't even know it was happening. How many votes were there?

Over 25,000 people voted on you beefcakes. Your closest competition came from Jeremy Bloom, Dwyane Wade and Dan Wheldon. Think you could best all of those guys on the catwalk?

I don't know! Actually, they had me and Reggie [Bush] do a little catwalk thing not too long ago, so I have a little bit of experience. That's not me, though. I can get dolled up and have some fun from time to time, but I'm a freaking sweats-and-shorts kind of guy! So this is pretty cool. Those guys are all very, uhh … appealing.

Who do you think is the smoothest-looking guy in sports?

Shaq and Kobe are always looking smooth. I saw Dwyane Wade at the ESPYs last year and he was looking good; he's got some fine clothing. All those basketball players come to mind, you know? They always seem to be looking smooth.

Must be the dress code.

Yeah, I guess it's working. I mean, football-wise, I don't even know. Hoopsters always look smooth. I'm definitely not smooth! I'm definitely not up there with those guys.

Leinart on ESPN Radio
Leinart talks about pro day and the criticism that he takes the most exception to.Insider

How would you describe your style?

Plain. A black T and jeans, that's me right there. I love getting dressed up in a nice suit every once in awhile, but every day, I'm in jeans or sweats and a T-shirt. I'm not a big fashion-type guy. I have learned that I need a lot more outfits than I have now.

When you go out on the town, who picks out your ensemble?

I do my best and I have my brother help me out. I've had a few custom suits made. I can put together a white shirt and a tie, or something, but I need help in the color-coordinating department. I'm still learning the ropes. I'm still young!

Maria Sharapova
Hmm ... could Matt return Maria's backhand if given the opportunity?

And they say you're the hottest. You must have a girlfriend.

No. I'm single.

All right, so without inhibition, who is the hottest female athlete?

I would have to say that Maria Sharapova is right up there for me. I would have voted for her. Those snowboard girls are pretty attractive, and Anna Kournikova -- when she was an athlete, I guess -- was by far, hands down, right up there. But that's the thing that makes Sharapova so sexy -- she looks good but she also plays really well. That's awesome. I'm surprised she didn't win.

Who's the sexiest lady off the field?

Oh geez. Where should I start? There are tons. First, I'm a big fan of Stacy Keibler from "Dancing with the Stars." I like Jessica Alba a lot. Should I keep going? There's too many. Carmen Electra is gorgeous. She was actually in that fashion show I mentioned with Reggie and I; she looked beautiful. There's a handful right there. Is that enough?

Yeah, I mean, I just want to know the truth about what's up with you and Paris.

Ha-ha. Oh man. We're just friends, that's all it is. I have a bunch of friends in that world, and I've realized that when it comes to that stuff, people blow things out of proportion. We're just friends. I don't pay too much attention to people talking about what goes on in the celebrity world. I've realized that's what it comes to -- people talking. I don't pay attention to it, I just kind of roll with it, you know? Whatever. Paris and I are just friends.

"Just friends" with Paris Hilton? That's hot. That's like me being "just friends" with Prince.

Stacy Keibler
Matt took a dance class at USC, but we're not sure if he learned enough to keep up with Stacy Keibler.

Nah, we're just friends.

You admit to a lot of friends in the celebrity world. Who are the three most famous celebs in your cell?

Hmm. You gotta put Nick [Lachey] in there.

Hey, speaking of Nick, it was rumored you two almost moved in together. Think you would have worked as roommates?

Ha-ha, nooooo. I mean, we get along really well, but we're -- I'm 22 and he's about 32, so we're different in that I'm still living in the college-type atmosphere. But Nick's a good guy, he's a good friend of mine. Besides him, I talk to Wilmer Valderrama quite a bit, and let's see ... One more? Let's say Alyssa Milano, she's a good friend.

Paris, Nick, Fez -- you know just about anybody who is anybody. Is there someone that could still geek you out?

Well, a couple weeks ago I met Jim Carrey, and I was pretty excited about that. I'm a huge fan of his. I got to meet Robin Williams. He actually chose me to call him up for an award he was receiving, which was really cool. I have never really formally met Shaq, but I've been around him because he did a coin toss at our game a few years back, and I was pretty psyched. Same kind of thing goes for Kobe. I guess I'm not really a guy who gets overly excited about meeting celebrities, but athletes are different. Like when I went to the ESPYs last year, hanging out with LeBron and Andy Roddick -- to me, that was just the coolest atmosphere ever. I will always love meeting great athletes … and maybe a guy like, say, Tom Hanks, who is a legend and just a real classy guy. Probably the most awestruck I've ever been was when I met Muhammad Ali. I met him at his celebrity fight night. That was amazing. That just speaks for itself.

In what way is your life more boring than we think?

To be completely honest, my life is pretty cool, I know that -- but on an everyday basis, I work out for football, that's all that is really consistent. I'm a normal guy.

A normal guy? C'mon. Who do you talk to more, your mother or your agent?

Oh, my mother. ... Well … let me see. Uhhh. That's a tough question!

Hey, at least you had to think about it.

No, no! I talk to my mom every single day! I call her every single day, whether it's for a half an hour or five minutes or a minute just to say hi. My family is the most important thing. That's almost an unfair question at this time in my life with everything coming up, it's almost like I'm on the phone with my agent 10 times a day just because he's handling everything that's going on. I'm talking to him more than usual these days. [Editor's note: Leinart recently fired his agent, Leigh Steinberg, and will be hiring another one shortly.] But I'm telling you, I'm a normal guy. Yeah, every once in a while, I get to go to some really cool thing, but I'm really just a simple guy. I'm an avid video-game freak. I like to sleep, hang out with my buddies -- the usual. I just learned how to do my own laundry this past year! I'm just a normal guy who happens to be in this lifestyle. I've become accustomed to this kind of living but I'm still me.

Leinart, Ali, Carrey
Yep, just your normal college kid -- hanging with Muhammad Ali and Jim Carrey.

I get to meet all these people and I deal with media, but I am who I am. I don't put up a front just because there's a camera rolling, or something. I think that's maybe a reason why some people might respect some of the things that I've done -- because I work really hard to try and be the best I can be, but at the same time I've enjoyed all of the opportunities I have gotten and I've remained the same person. When those special events happen to come up, I do have fun and I really enjoy them because I know they are opportunities that a lot of people don't have. I feel like I'm blessed to be able to do those things and be where I am today. That said, I don't lead the big glamorous lifestyle that a lot of people might think.

Glamorous or not, you're a chick magnet. Is there anything about you that would turn them off?

That would turn them off? [laughs] I don't really have any bad habits. Umm, I'm extremely messy. I'm just a messy guy. My house and my room are just complete disasters. I don't know if that would turn anybody off. But I'm very romantic! I know how to treat a lady.

You must be doing something right -- you've dated a surfer, an actress and a basketball player. What's your type?

Well, I've been somewhat lured to the blondes. I don't know why! My last two girlfriends were blondes and great athletes. I need a girl who is very confident and secure in herself. I need a girl with a similar personality to me, someone who can just hang out and not worry, sort of just low-maintenance and one of the guys. I want someone who is smart and very beautiful and confident. Security is big.

Leinart and Vanessa Minnillo
We repeat ... just your normal kid, hanging with Vanessa Minnillo.

I just read an article in the New York Times that claimed the bearded man is the sex symbol of the year. What do you think about that? Is that what you're going for?

Well, I'm obviously a fan of the beard. I grew it out this year during the season. I'm a guy that likes the scruff -- I like looking scruffy. I've gotten a bunch of compliments -- not compliments, but you know what I mean. I hear both sides, though. Some like it, some don't. Women my age seem to like the scruffy look. My mom likes me clean-shaven because she likes to "see my face." So people seem to like it better one way or the other, but me personally? I like the scruff instead of the clean-cut.

You don't get any super-secret facials or anything, right?

Nooo. No, nothing like that. I probably should get a pedicure, but nope, no facials for me.

Who do you model your whiskers after? Dan Fouts, Brad Pitt, Matisyahu, Ulysses S. Grant?

Believe it or not, people actually compared me to Dan Fouts this year because of my beard. Nobody really inspired it for me, though. One day I just let it go and it kept growing and I decided to let it out. It's funny, actually -- last year, it did seem like guys started growing out their beards. Johnny Damon and Jake Plummer and Ben Roethlisberger…

Freud, Jesus and Jerry Garcia can't all be wrong!

That's true. For whatever reason, I think girls like the scruff.

Speaking of hairy guys, what's it like having Snoop Dogg at practice?

Matt Leinart
After one of the greatest college careers of all time, Leinart has his eye on becoming a top-three pick in the NFL draft.

Snoop is cool, he's such a big football fan and a big SC fan. I've had a chance to hang out with him a few times at random events. He's awesome, he's a really great guy and it's fun to have people like that at practice showing their support. We're fans of him and he's a fan of us; it's always cool when it works out like that.

Yeah, Snoop, Dr. Dre, The Game, Andre 3000, Flea … the freaking Fonz, they're all Trojan fans! So seriously, how much rank can you pull in this city?

[laughs] Yeah, it's one of the perks, so to speak … and I'm not a guy who expects anything. I would never walk into a restaurant and say, "I want a seat now." That's not me. But there are a lot of people out there who know who someone is, and then they want to help them and they do it themselves. So it definitely has its advantage around this town.

I've heard you compared to everybody from Joe Namath to Frank Sinatra -- do you think that has anything, or everything, to do with you being in Hollywood?

I think it has a lot to do with being in L.A., of course. And USC being on top of the world and me being a quarterback, all those things kind of tie into this persona and this image that I'm supposed to have, or that I do have. With all that, I think I've just handled everything well -- and that is, I've just done everything the only way I know how to do it. That's really it. Maybe that has drawn some people in, because they know that I'm not one of those guys who is going to be arrogant and not one of those guys who is going to pop off at the media or make bad decisions. All that plays a part in this impression people have, and of course, being here in Los Angeles with all the press and perception.

Leinart and Bush
Hey, if that NFL thing doesn't work out for Leinart and USC teammate Reggie Bush, there are always modeling careers.

You recently had a workout with the Jets. Think you can fill Broadway Joe's shoes if you go to New York?

Nah, I don't think I can fill anybody's shoes; I'll just be me. Joe was a great player and a huge superstar for that organization, and I'm just a guy trying to make it. I'm not trying to fill anybody's shoes, I'm just trying to be me. If I was to be a Jet, that would be sweet and I would do anything I can to help that team win.

If you were the Texans, who would you take with the first pick in the draft -- Bush, Young or Leinart?

Woo. Umm. ... Well, I'm going to give you the politically correct answer. I'm going to say that whatever position that team feels they need most, that's what they are going to take. Speaking for each of us, I think Reggie -- well, his numbers speak for themselves as to what he can do as a running back and what he can bring to a team. I think Vince offers some unique abilities with the way he can run the ball and throw and his overall athletic ability. And, I feel like, for me, what I bring to the table and what I offer to a team is a winning quarterback, a solid quarterback that has been successful at the highest level for multiple years. Something like that. I don't know. That's the toughest question to answer. I'm not one to say, "Oh me, definitely." Every team has different needs and they use players differently, and each one of us is unique and different. So I don't know.

That's very diplomatic, but I expect that from here on out if anybody asks you what sets you apart from Reggie and Vince you'll say, "Well, I was ESPN.com's Hottest Athlete."

[laughing] Yes, I guess I do hold that above them.

Two rings, a Heisman and the crown of dashing good looks!

[laughing] Oh yeah, that's certainly right up there.

Hey, I'm telling you, this could be a hefty advantage on draft day.

We'll see.

Mary Buckheit is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.