By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
Let’s say that you have a stack of plywood in your backyard, and there’s nothing written in the Homeowners Association bylaws that prohibits what you have in mind. What do you do?
Well, if you’re former Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Chris Luzar, you build a boat.
A 34-foot boat.
Luzar, who was chosen by Jacksonville in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft, began working with his hands in earnest while at the University of Virginia.
“I started out as an architecture major and being a football player, I couldn’t do it because the course times were at the same time as football practice,” Luzar said. “So, I went next door to the art building and talked to them and changed my major to sculpture.
“There was a big tree trunk outside the art studio, and the teacher handed me a hammer and a chisel and told me, ‘See what you can do with that.’ I got about 10 minutes into it with a hammer and a chisel and I was like, ‘This is for the birds.’ And so, I got a chainsaw and made quick work of the tree stump.
“I actually made kind of a football theme. It was one guy tackling another guy. And then I ended up making several other sculptures. Most of what I did was with wood and a chainsaw, but I also did some bronze casting and welded steel sculptures. It was probably 50-50 wood and metal, be it steel or bronze.”
As far as building a boat in his backyard, it was a task that took Luzar five years to complete…
“I started with an idea,” Luzar said. “I wanted to mix several different styles of boats put together. So, I designed it myself and then took it to an engineer to make sure it would float. We took the drawings to a CNC machine and essentially cut out the pieces. And from there it was just putting the pieces together.
“It was a project where I thought I could save money by building it myself and it would be a fun hobby, but at the end of the day, I probably could have bought three boats by the time I built one.
“It took me five years to build, but I had a day job so it wasn’t like I was building a boat 40 hours a week. It was just working on it on the weekends, working on it in the evenings. And there’d be times when life got busy and the boat would sit. Then I’d get motivated again and work on it for a little bit and then get bored or tired or busy and not work on it. So that’s probably why it took me so long. If I was to have dedicated time to it and if I didn’t have a job, it’d still take a year to build.”
Named She Floats, “first as a question and then as a statement,” Luzar’s maiden voyage with the twin 350-horsepower outboard engines vessel in June of 2015 was eye-opening even before it touched water.
“I went to put the boat in off of the trailer, but I had the wires crossed and instead of backing it off, the boat went forward,” Luzar said. “Everybody was freaking out at that point. But I built it, so I knew how to fix it. I just flipped the wires around and backed the trailer off and we proceeded to go 100 miles offshore.”
Making their home in Jacksonville, Luzar and his wife, Erica, and their children Hunter, Skyler and Emerson, are able to spend a lot of time on the homemade boat. And he also finds time to make fishing trips with some former NFL players.
“Mark Brunell and Cooper Carlisle and Matt Robinson, we went [200 miles to Spanish Cay in the Bahamas] this year and caught a bunch of blue marlins,” Luzar said. “It’s been to the Bahamas three times now and I do a lot of fishing outside of Jacksonville.”
Besides now having the means to fish at will, if you will, what did Luzar enjoy most about the whole boatbuilding adventure?
“Obviously, the building process just because I love to use my hands,” Luzar said. “The day that we launched it for the maiden voyage and it actually floated and went 50 mph, that was pretty exciting. It was like, ‘Wow, I did this.’ It was very, very gratifying. I essentially built something with my two hands and was able to go fishing on it.”
When he’s not baiting the hooks, Luzar is an independent sales representative for Arthrex, a sports medicine company. “If you tear your ACL or break your leg, I sell all the nuts and bolts to put you back together,” he said. “We’re actually in the operating room everyday with the surgeons, putting people back together.”
Luzar is planning to give She Floats some company in the backyard and his neighbors something to talk about. He’s in the process of working with a Naval architect to build a 50-footer.