Carl Weathers Returns to SDSU with Tips for the Next Generation of Athletes, Actors

The Mandalorian guest star recalled how his college experience helped prepare him for a lifelong career in performing arts.

Friday, February 3, 2023
SDSU alumnus Carl Weathers (left) and Tammy Blackburn share a laugh during the max capacity Presidents Lecture Series event at Montezuma Hall on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Photo: Mario Sevilla)
SDSU alumnus Carl Weathers (left) and Tammy Blackburn share a laugh during the max capacity Presidents Lecture Series event at Montezuma Hall on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Photo: Mario Sevilla)

Carl Weathers, the former San Diego State Aztecs linebacker and theater student whose nearly five-decade career in television and film remains active with the “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian” and other projects, returned to his alma mater Thursday for a talk packed with campus memories and motivational advice for today’s students.

“The town was such a great place to land for a kid who really … was trying to find their way,” Weathers said. “I experienced a greater degree of comfort on this campus than I can remember almost any place at that time in my life.”

“I’m really so happy to be associated with SDSU.”

Weathers majored in theater arts while attending SDSU between 1968 and 1970 as a transfer student, and played football under legendary coach Don Coryell.

His 90-minute appearance at Montezuma Hall in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union for the SDSU President’s Lecture Series drew an enthusiastic audience of nearly 900, including theater students, current members of the Aztecs’ football team and head coach Brady Hoke.

In a self-deprecating comment about the long line that had been waiting for the opening of the doors to the hall, Weathers barked: “You’re nuts!” He then confessed the longest line he had stood in himself was for the release of the first “Star Wars” movie.

Weathers’ acting credits include the first four “Rocky” movies, “Predator” and “Happy Gilmore.” He has been part of the recurring guest cast of “The Mandalorian” as Greef Karga for three seasons on the Disney+ streaming service.

Gabriel Scodeller, a political science student in his final semester at SDSU, said Thursday’s event offered a sense of nostalgia. Scodeller, wearing a Rocky Balboa t-shirt, said his father turned him onto the films “Predator” and “Rocky,” the latter in which he draws personal parallels to Weathers’ character Apollo Creed.

“I was curious to learn that he doesn't display any favoritism toward any of his previous roles,” said Scodeller. “He has a lot of adoration and love for all the roles that he's played whether big or small.”

“But to hear that there's not one role that he felt defines him is good because I don't think as human beings there should be one role that defines us. I think that kind of is a testament to the human spirit, as well.”

A question-and-answer segment at the end of his talk proved to be a true give-and-take. One student presented him with a tiny, handmade Greef figurine; another asked for his autograph on a box with a Funko Pop bobblehead doll of the same character.

Carl Weathers inspects a custom-made mini figure
Carl Weathers inspects a custom-made mini figure in the likeness of his “Mandalorian” character Greef Karga during the President’s Lecture Series event at Montezuma Hall. The figure was given to him by an audience member during the event. (Mario Sevilla/SDSU)

Weathers was interviewed on stage by Tammy Blackburn, senior director of marketing and communications for the University Relations and Development office at SDSU.

He described the improbable circumstances of his enrollment at what was then San Diego State College, when his sister admitted a man to their Long Beach home who identified himself as a coach, awakening him in his bedroom on a Saturday morning.

“OK, let’s go,” Weathers remembered thinking. “It was really so ridiculously simple.”

His concurrent interest in theater created what Weathers called a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde existence. He had been performing on stage since middle school in New Orleans and continued with it at community college in California, happy to take even small roles.

In both arenas, Weathers said, the key to happiness is doing what you want. It was a theme he returned to again and again in his remarks.

“It’s trite but I think it’s true,” he said. “It’s really ‘follow your dream.’”

Weathers’ message resonated with SDSU alumna Jeanette Soriano (’83 and ’88), who was at the event with a guest.

“The number one thing that I took from it was that you have to be true to yourself,” said Soriano. “You have to go for what your passion is but also be mindful of making sure that you take care of yourself.”

“His experience of struggling when he was younger and that he had all these mentors, then giving back by being a mentor himself … the fact that he's here at San Diego State speaking shows that he wants to give back to the community.”

When a student asked what motivates him to work hard every day, Weathers replied: “If you don’t work hard, what’s the alternative? Why not do the best job you can do because that’s the way you want to live your life?”

On other topics:

  • Weathers said he has no favorite role from his career. “It’s like having kids,” he said, and if a role resonates with the audience, “then I’m happy.”
  • Between acting and directing, Weathers prefers directing. ”There are so many more masters to serve,” he said. “It’s not for a weak heart.”
  • Weathers was asked about diversity in acting. “I’m mixed-race and I’m a film student here,” a questioner said. “What’s your take on representation because I rarely see myself on screen?” Weathers said there’s “more and more and more that’s happening (with) mixed-race people” even if not if it’s not “exactly the same profile of your mixed race …. We are growing as a species, and maybe releasing some of the ignorance and prejudices that we’ve held for so long.”
Carl Weathers receives a round of applause from host Tammy Blackburn
Carl Weathers receives a round of applause from host Tammy Blackburn and a max capacity audience following the 90-minute President’s Lecture Series event at Montezuma Hall on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Mario Sevilla/SDSU)
Categorized As