LAFAYETTE — Eugene Kwarteng is an extremely focused individual. He's obviously concentrating on his duties as a junior defensive end for UL Lafayette's Ragin' Cajuns as they prepare for Saturday's season opener against Northwestern State.
But the 6-foot-4 native of Ghana is just as serious about his future in computer animation as a visual arts major at UL.
Both receive his undivided attention when the time is right.
“Art is something I've been into probably since the fourth or fifth grade,” said Kwarteng, who starred at Eustace High School in Mabank, Texas.
“I started with tracing first, and then I would copy what I'd see. I was always interested in comic books. I had an art teacher in the sixth grade, Miss Cooper, who helped me. And Mr. Owens in industrial technology class got me into computers.
“Part of my decision to come here was their animation department. My concentration is in computer animation. I enjoy it, and it's something I can make a decent living at after football. I don't know if football will last beyond college, but either way I get to do that.”
California is the most likely destination for Kwarteng's career, with special effects in movies his ultimate goal. Not surprisingly, he looks at films with a different eye than the rest of us.
“I try to break it down and figure out how they do special effects,” he said. “I try to see past the whole facade and view it analytically.”
Kwarteng's choice is usually science fiction or fantasy, the areas most likely to utilize his talents.
UL's animation lab has limited hours, but Kwarteng recently got a computer at his dormitory room so he could work more extensively on projects.
His academic focus has paid off with 2001-2002 inclusion on the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List, as well as membership on the Sun Belt Honor Roll in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004.
He was a National Honor Society member in high school, as well as a participant in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Drama Club, so he has always had multiple interests.
“Fortunately,” he said, “I'm able to balance school and football. I want to make sure I finish on time.”
When it comes time for Kwarteng to hit the field, he morphs into his own sci-fi action figure, with a touch of ancient Rome thrown in.
“I approach the game as a battle,” he said. “It's somewhat the warrior mentality. I'm a different person on the field.
“We're gladiators in the arena. It's intense. You're like a machine. When we go to full pads (each August) it's like strapping on the armor again, that's all.”
Kwarteng played much of the 2003 season with a broken left hand, so intense is his focus. The injury helped cut his tackle total nearly in half from 2002, but he didn't miss a game.
Now, with the hand healed and the Cajuns in a new 4-3 defensive scheme, Kwarteng expects to flourish. He set UL strength and conditioning records with a 39.5 inch vertical leap in 2003 and a 355-pound power clean this year.
Such versatility was evident in his prep days, when he lettered four years at running back, linebacker and free safety, was an all-area running back and a state medalist in the triple jump in track and field.
He moved to defensive end at UL, and is once again eager to put his multiple talents to work.
“I started focusing on the opener the week I came back this summer,” Kwarteng said. “I got more in tune as the weeks went by.
“In the past, I had tunnel vision. But I've become more a student of the game. You have to stay calm if situations don't go your way. You have to keep a cool head.
“The game can switch sides at any point in time.”
As the 2004 Cajun plot thickens, Kwarteng becomes animated just thinking about it.