Body of Work


By Jessica Pelligra
Photography by Paul Body

From an NFL cornerback who tackles the biggest players in the game to a deep-sea diver who dismantles unexploded bombs to a sign language student who lets her fingers do the talking, many San Diegans get physical to get paid. Here are seven such citizens who embody their professions in more ways than one.

Brandon Flowers

Age: 29 • Body of work: San Diego Chargers cornerback

PacificSD: How does it feel to have tens of thousands of fans cheering for you?
BRANDON FLOWERS: It’s the best feeling in the world. At that one moment, you know everyone is watching just you, cheering for you and your team. It’s kind of weird, because no matter how loud everyone is yelling and cheering, it gets dead silent when you’re about to make a play.

How does it feel to win a game?
It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s kind of like you always wanted to try your favorite dish on Pinterest, and then you find someone who can finally put it together, and it tastes perfect because all of the preparation you put into it has paid off. That’s what it’s like on the field. So much preparation goes into it during the week that a lot of people don’t see. Hours and hours spent in the meeting room, a lot of practice, watching films, studying your opponent. And when you get that accomplished on the field, there’s no better feeling.

And to lose?
It’s tough because you feel like everything you studied for was a waste. We put so many hours - so much blood, sweat and tears - into the game, so when you lose you feel like you let your team down. I judge myself pretty hard, so even if I have the best game I’ve ever had, and we lose, I still feel like there was something more I could have done to help my team.

How do you prepare for game?
I wake up and make sure I get a good meal in, and I really like to relax. I might listen to slow jams and just calm my body before the storm. Once you hit the field, it’s a hundred miles per hour - fans screaming, everything. So, I tend to just calm my body and sit with a towel over my face; I almost meditate.

What’s the all-time best moment you’ve had on the field?
My all-time best moment was my rookie year. I got two interceptions from Brett Farve and I returned one for a touchdown for about ninety-four yards. And it was in their stadium. So, me being a Brett Farve fan growing up and appreciating everything he has done in the game, and to get my first two NFL interceptions that game, it was just such a great moment.

Who most deserves to be tackled hard and why?
Any quarterback in our division on a rival team. That’s how we make the playoffs. Everyone on D-line needs to tackle those guys hard any chance they can get.

What do you want to accomplish next in football?
I want to win a Super Bowl. That has to be the greatest feeling ever. Every Super Bowl I watch, I wish I was there. Seeing that those guys are that close to fulfilling their childhood dreams; that has to be a special moment.

Playing in the NFL is said to take ten years off of your life. If that’s true, has it been worth it?
It’s worth it. I was fortunate enough to get some great contracts in this game, and it’s the game I love to play. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I feel like I was able to financially have my family stable. They don’t have any needs. I can set my daughter up for her future, and her college is paid for. If it takes ten years off of my life, then I had a great life. Let’s just hope that’s a myth, though.

Duke Jarboe

ALa Jolla Shores” src=”” alt=”Duke Jarboe, La Jolla Shores” width=”325” height=”543” />ge: 34 • Body of work: kayak instructor

PacificSD: Where do you most like to kayak?
DUKE JARBOE: Right here in La Jolla. Even on days off, I take the kayaks out and go as far as I can. We go into the cave, and it’s really cool. There’s a huge sea lion colony right here at the caves. The males can be assholes; I’ve had one poop all over me inside the cave, which was so disgusting. But they are the only colony where the pups are born on the mainland, so they’re really used to being around us humans since they’re about the size of a football. They don’t really bother you, unless you have fish. If you go spear fishing in the cove, then a lot of times they will gang up on you and take your fish.

Do you encounter many sea creatures while working on the water?
We interact with a lot of sea creatures - sharks, garibaldi fish, turtles, shovelnose guitarfish, sharks and then tons of sea lions, seals, dolphins and whales. The most insane experience I’ve had was a baby sea lion that jumped into one of my client’s kayaks. That was cool. I’ve had a baby grey whale come up and rub right along my kayak. Recently, I got to do a joint venture with another company where we went out and tried to find blue whales, and I got to touch a blue whale right as it surfaced next to my kayak.

Brittany Johnson

Age: 21 • Body of work: American Sign Language interpreter

PacificSD: What should people who don’t use sign language understand about people who do?
BRITTANY JOHNSON: Facial expression is actually part of the grammar, so if you see someone signing and they have a weird face, it’s part of what they are signing.

Are there things you can you express more clearly through signing than through speaking vocally?
Any story is so much easier to explain using sign language. It’s more direct, but also it’s more visual and really condensed. Instead of saying “there’s a three-car pile up,” you can sign it by using the gesture for car crash and holding up three fingers.

For people who don’t sign, what’s another good way to communicate with someone who is deaf?
They are very cool with writing it down and passing notes. Or you can also use the notepad on your phone. I know a lot people who do this when they go to order something at a restaurant or a fast-food line. Technology has made communication for everyone, deaf community included, so much faster and easier.

Do you ever sign when you’re alone?
I catch myself signing all the time. I’ll be in my car and I’ll be signing the lyrics while singing the songs on the radio.

How do you envision your career in signing progressing?
My ultimate goal is to move to D.C. and specialize in the legal setting, to interpret in the courts there.

Jason Teuton

Age: 32 • Body of work: Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) diver - formerly Navy, now defense consultant

PacificSD: What’s it like to work on the ocean floor?
JASON TEUTON: Depending on where you are diving, it’s either the most beautiful place in the world or the scariest place in the world. Diving off the coast of Hawaii, for instance, is absolutely beautiful; there are a lot of tropical fish and coral reefs to look at. When you’re EOD diving, though, oftentimes you are in deep ocean, where it’s really deep and really dark.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen underwater?
It’s really cool to see the aftermath of explosions underwater, because crabs come out of the sand in masses, and it looks like the ocean floor is moving.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve seen down there?
I’ve seen a lot of big sharks and eels. Sometimes when you’re resting on a reef, an eel pops its head out next to you when you’re least expecting it and catches you off-guard. But I think the scariest thing is when you are diving at night, and it’s pitch black, and a sea lion decides he wants to play with you. He will pull on your fin or bump into you, and you don’t know it’s a sea lion. Plus, if they want to, they can bite.

Marisa McElroy

Age: 26 • Body of work: boxer

PacificSD: What does it feel like to win a fight?
MARISA MCELROY: Winning is great. I want to win so bad, because there’s nothing that compares to that moment when the ref lifts up your arm, and everyone is cheering for you. Having a goal and accomplishing it... it’s just a really good feeling.

What does it feel like to lose?
Losing has to be one of the hardest things, because it hurts. You just feel like you’re letting other people down - your team, your coaches and the people by your side the whole journey. It’s a bummer feeling and hard on the ego a little bit. You go in there and lose it’s like, “Man, what did I do wrong?” It’s a wave of transitions: you’re sad, and then you’re mad, and then you want to get back in there and kick her ass again.

Who really needs to be punched in the face?
Kanye. He doesn’t smile enough for living the life he lives. His marriage, he has a beautiful daughter, he can fly all over the world and do all these cool things - but he doesn’t smile. He should at least be happy and try and spread some positivity around.

Melissa Villalobos

Age: 26 • Body of work: go-go dancer

PacificSD: How much of a workout is it go-go dance all night long?
MELISSA VILLALOBOS: It’s definitely a workout. You always have to be focused not only on your dance moves, but also on the way your face looks, because everyone is looking at you.

Any battle scars from go-go dancing?
There was a drunk guy one time and he was hitting on me while I was dancing on top of a bar. And he just kept wanting to get my attention no matter how many times I told him that I was working and he needed to give me some space to dance. He ended up knocking over his drink all over the bar, which caused me to slip and fall into a trashcan. Like, in the trashcan. That was the only time I’ve ever fallen off the thing I’m supposed to be dancing on.

Where’s your favorite place to perform?
I like to do events like EDC and Nocturnal, all of those huge Insomniac events. I love the outfits that they put together for us to wear, because they are very over-the-top. Also, being on the stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people is really exciting.

If you could dance in front of an audience at any time in history, when would that be?
It would definitely be the 1920s, during the flapper days. I just like the style and the way they danced.

Who’s your favorite dancer to watch perform?
Britney Spears’ backup dancers.

Jerdani Kraja

Age: 21 • Body of work: fitness model and bodybuilder

PacificSD: How did you get into modeling?
JERDANI KRAJA: I was a Marine and I would always see other people in magazines or winning shows that I felt like I had a better body than. One day, I showed up to the biggest fitness show of the year and took first place out of fifty participants. From there, photographers spotted me, and I started shooting with the top photographers in the world.

Do you have any scars, tattoos or other identifying marks on your body?
I have a tattoo on my butt. It’s the hand signal for the word “gnarly” and it actually says “gnarly” on the wrist. My buddies and I used to go wake boarding a lot on the lake and we liked to moon other boaters. So we all got them - me and six buddies. We were 16 or 15 at the time. Now I use it as an icebreaker.

What’s the strangest modeling gig you’ve been offered? Five
grand to do a [pornographic] video. People want to me to do porn all the time. I never would. It would affect my future as a model... and my job as a future fireman.

Is that what you see yourself doing after modeling?
Yes, I want to be a firefighter; that’s what I’m currently going to school for. Or else I would go be Magic Mike.

You would strip but not do porn?
Yep, my mom gave me the green light on that. That’s how Channing Tatum was found.