Javier’s Story … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

“At 5:10 p.m. on April 27, Javier Arenas, like many Tuscaloosa residents, was watching the local news as the emergency sirens blared.”

Thus begins a remarkable story in this week’s edition of Sports Illustrated. Chiefs nickel back and returner Javier Arenas survived the tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, three weeks ago.

When your copy of SI lands in your mailbox in the next few days, make sure to stop and read Lars Anderson’s story about the tornado and the University of Alabama athletes that found their lives changed by that eventful day. If you don’t subscribe, here’s a link to the story.

Arenas grew up in Tampa, but played his college football for the Crimson Tide, including being a key member of the ’09 Alabama national championship team. He has a home in Tuscaloosa. “It’s where I’ve experienced the best memories of my life,” Arenas said. “Alabama football is a religion here. We don’t have any professional teams. You can walk into any living room in the state and they’ll have either an Alabama logo or an Auburn logo. The devotion of the fans is unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere.”  

Arenas was alone in his living room on that late afternoon when the TV weatherman reported the tornado was roaring through downtown Tuscaloosa. That was four miles from Arenas’ house. But he looked out the window and there less than a quarter-mile away was the tornado and it was moving towards him.

He ran to the bathroom and covered himself in the bathtub. He held on for dear life as the twister blew through his home, throwing his car into the living room and ripping the roof off more than half of the house.

As quickly as it was upon him, the tornado was gone. Arenas came out of his tub and surveyed the damage in his home and the neighborhood. Several houses were flattened. Voice came out of the rubble asking to be rescued. Everything was turned upside down.

“You couldn’t have made a tornado that big even in the movies,” Arenas said. “Afterward everyone was walking around like zombies. It’s hard. I’m trying to get my head together. It’s going to take time.”

The story goes on to tell the story of how Arenas drove to Kansas City, loaded up his car with bottled water, baby food and other necessities and drove back to Tuscaloosa where he gave away the supplies.

It’s a remarkable story about football players, baseball players, track athletes, members of the gymnastics team and others in the Crimson Tide athletic community. The Tuscaloosa tornado is not something those people will forget, and you won’t either when you read this story.

Arenas remained in the area, where he’s helping where he can and spending time trying to buck up the folks who are helping the cleanup and rebuilding efforts, like the National Guardsmen he stands with in the picture below.


Donald Willis earned the nickname “Snacks” during his five years with the Chiefs (2000-04). That was due to his size – a short, squatty but powerful body that did a good job on special teams and in the six games where he started at guard for Gunther Cunningham and Dick Vermeil.

Willis finished his 10-year NFL career in Kansas City, as a back injury essentially took him out of the action. After surgery, he was released by the Chiefs and rather than continue playing, he called it quits. Settling with his family in Kansas City, he worked on completing his undergraduate degree, did some coaching and worked at several different jobs.

He’s since moved back to his roots on the central coast of California, and Wednesday evening he was honored with induction into the Santa Barbara County Athletic Hall of Fame.

“I played 10 years and had a good career,” Willis said. “I really enjoyed my time in Kansas City, but it’s good to come home again to Lompoc.

“I’m like every kid who leaves Lompoc — I’m never coming back,” he said. “But I started getting a feeling that it would be neat to come back where I started and to coach.

“I love the teaching aspect most of all. Most of the kids are engaged, and maybe it’s because of what I’ve done and where I’ve been.”

Willis is coaching track and football at his alma mater Cabrillo High School in Lompoc.

Just for another example of it’s a small world, Wednesday night’s starting pitcher for the Royals against the Texas Rangers was Daniel Duffy, making his first major league start. Duffy is a ’07 graduate of Cabrillo High.


Former Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez sold his one-time bachelor pad in Manhattan Beach, California for $2.55 million. He was asking $3.6 million.

Still, considering T.G. bought the property eight years ago for $1.57 million, he turned a nice profit, even after gutting the structure. But he had to give up the view above from his rooftop deck.

The Spanish-style, 3,725-square-foot house sits two blocks from the beach and has two living rooms, four bedrooms, four bathrooms and a master bedroom suite with a fireplace and a patio. Then there’s the rooftop deck with ocean views, a built-in grill and sound system. There’s also a hot tub and a four-car garage.

“I totally gutted the house when I bought it,” Gonzalez said. “It was amazing to see the transformation from what it was to what it is now.

“It broke my heart to let the house go but we have a family now and wanted to move closer to the grandparents down in Huntington Beach.”

Tony and his wife October have three children: sons Nikko and River and daughter Malia.

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