New Chargers fullback Frank Summers has become a fan favorite this training camp, not for the smile behind his blue facemask or the attentive eyes shielded by his charcoal-black visor.
Summers is the chef who serves violence.
With black hair hanging under his white helmet and a football crushed against his chest, the 5-foot-10, 255-pound gladiator treats tacklers like derby cars.
On Sunday, after a two-hour afternoon practice, the warrior shed the helmet that hid his face and unbuckled the armor that bulked his body. He came to his locker, paused, and then quietly nodded toward a photograph taped to its right wooden edge.
An angel in black pigtails wore a light-colored, laced dress in front of a white background.
"That's her right there," Summers said. "Maleia. She's special to me. She's real special, actually."
To this point, Summers, 25, has had an NFL career he chooses to ignore. He wants to conduct himself like a rookie, undrafted, from a no-name college.
He forgets his previous two years in the NFL for motivation.
For purpose, he remembers his 2-year-old daughter.
Summers raises Maleia alone as a single father. To come to camp in San Diego, he left her last week in Oakland, Calif., to stay with his mother.
He said he has spoken to his daughter just once since then because he doesn’t want to get too emotional.
“It's like if I'm not successful at this right now, then I left her for no reason,” Summers said. “I'm not going to let that happen."
On Monday, coach Norv Turner said Summers has made a “very strong impression on all our guys.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Summers in the fifth round in 2009 out of UNLV. His rookie season was spoiled to injury, and he spent last season on the practice squad before being released.
The Chargers signed him in February to a reserve-future contract.
“When he was released by Pittsburgh, it was a situation where our scouts had good grades on him,” Turner said. “We liked him when he was coming out of college, so it was a good opportunity for us to give him a chance … He’s a physical guy.”
Summers is locker neighbors with running back Mike Tolbert, a former undrafted rookie who walked a path Summers hopes to follow, earning his way onto the roster with versatility between offense and special teams.
The two players have already been compared for their downhill running styles.
“He likes to hit; I like to hit,” Tolbert said. “I think I just might be a little more fluid with (my running style). It's some hard-nose football. That's what we grew up with.”
When the collisions stop and the cheers subside, Summers returns to his locker.
He returns to the photograph attached to its right edge.
He returns to Maleia.
“Right now, I'm taking care of business, but I have her on my mind,” Summers said. “When I'm tired, when I'm sore, when I don't feel like waking up from my nap, I just think about her, and she gives me more than enough energy that I need.”