Aaron Graves knew he wanted to be a Hawkeye in June of 2019. That’s when the Gowrie (IA) Southeast Valley defensive lineman verbally committed to Iowa Football.
It makes perfect sense Graves might be more thrilled than anybody in the Hawkeye ’22 recruiting to report to campus next month. He’s champing at the bit.
“I’m feeling pure excitement,” Graves told HN. “I’m ready to get this thing rolling.”
Graves (6-5, 270) joins a defensive front with three returning starters and several others who saw significant time last season. He’s approaching his arrival maturely.
“I’m going in with the humility to not expect that I deserve a starting spot but with enough confidence to know if I compete and learn the playbook, I could possibly work into the rotation,” he said.
Offseason training around basketball and wrestling (yes, he competed in both sports) during the winter, and track now, is preparing him for the rigors of college football.
“I lift four times a week and do five sprint training workouts a week along with track practices. I’m feeling confident in my physical abilities. I just need to learn the playbook as soon as possible,” Graves said.
He believes the Iowa coaches will do what’s best for him and the team in Year 1.
“I’d love to work into the rotation, although I know this is rare at Iowa for a freshman. If I got on special teams or even redshirted, I’d be confident the staff has my best interest in mind, and I wouldn’t get down about it,” he said.
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Graves was a man among boys in leading Southeast Valley to the Class 2A state championship last fall. The two-way lineman recorded 63.0 tackles (43.0 solo, 14.0 for loss) and 7.5 sacks, and recovered two fumbles. He kicked off 47 times and averaged 38.0 yards on 26 punts. He three times earned first-team all-state honors and played in the prestigious All-American Bowl during January in San Antonio.
Graves led the Jaguars basketball team in scoring (22.0 PPG) and rebounding (8.2 RPG), and finished second in assists (2.8 APG) this winter. On the mat, he finished 31-4 after reaching the state semifinals, where he fell to Easton Fleshman, a Hawkeye wrestling commitment. He qualified eighth in Class 2A shot put at this week’s state track meet.
It will interesting to see where Graves ends up on the defensive line. He boasts the athleticism to play off of the edge, but that could play up even more if he moves inside with his power and leverage. He might start out outside and end up inside. Time will tell.
“I love both of my (Iowa) position coaches (Kelvin Bell and Jay Niemann). They’ve shown me they have a lot of interest in my abilities as a player and are excited to work with me. I just can’t wait to learn as much as I can from them,” Graves said.
As the first member of the class, Graves has watched it come together from start to finish.
“I have a good relationship with the other members in my class. I just haven’t had a whole lot of in-person time with them yet. That’s another thing I’m excited for, to get to know them better,” he said.
This year, Graves will room with Kale Krogh, an offensive lineman from Huxley (IA) Ballard High.
The ’22 class has discussed goals.
“Right now, the consensus is that we want to win as many games as we can and go as far as we can come postseason. I guarantee we’ll set more goals in stone once we’re all together in Iowa City,” Graves said.
You can watch Graves’ senior football highlights HERE.