And while almost always undersized by traditional recruiting standards, the Midshipmen linemen under coach Ken Niumatalolo have never lacked in athleticism or want-to. This year Niumatalolo and his staff received a commitment from a particularly athletic looking offensive lineman in Diamond Ranch (CA) guard Graham Vickers. I caught up with Vickers recently, and found out just why the player ESPN called “one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the country” chose Navy over rivals Army and Air Force.
(Note: This interview was conducted in May 2009)
Adam Nettina (AN): Did you attend the Blue and Gold Game in Annapolis? If so, how was your experience? Have you met any of your future Navy teammates yet?
Graham Vickers (GV): No, unfortunately because of the distance of me living in California and prior arrangements I was unable to attend the Blue and Gold scrimmage. I did meet quite a few of my future Navy teammates on my recruiting trip back in February though.
AN: I noticed that you had scholarship offers from Army, Navy and Air Force. What made Navy a better fit for you over the other service academies? How influential was Navy’s recent on-field dominance over both Army and Air Force in your decision?
GV: Navy was a better choice for me in that they run an offense where I don’t have to stay at one position, I can be used at any position on the offensive line, and how much they showed that they really wanted me to attend. The coaching staff would send me personal and hand written letters about once every couple of months. The dominance that Navy has shown was also a major factor in me picking Navy…I mean I want to win and I chose the right place to go to win. I don’t think the success necessarily gives an advantage to Navy over Air Force and Army, it just makes the other two academies want to win even more and will make each of those games some of the best games to play in.
AN: Outside of the service academies, which schools were recruiting you, and which ones offered you a scholarship?
GV: I was being recruited by BYU, Fresno State, Boise State, NAU, and Portland State University. Portland State was the only non-academy school to offer me a scholarship
AN: ESPN.com/Scouts Inc. called you “one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the country.” What does it mean to you to receive such high praise?
GV: To receive such high praise as being one of the most athletic lineman in the country is amazing considering there are thousands of high schools in the country and ESPN saying I am on of the best is just an incredible feeling.
AN: Playing on the offensive line isn’t the flashiest position, and many times fans overlook the athleticism of the linemen “down in the trenches.” Tell us what sets you apart as a lineman and what you do best on the field. Which aspect of your game would you like to improve on coming into the FBS level of competition?
GV: What sets me apart as a lineman is that I am more than just a run and pass blocker; I am a lineman that can get through to the second level with ease because of my athleticism and I have the ability to destroy linebackers and safeties. I feel what really helped me in becoming so athletic is my sports background. I have been playing sports since I was in kindergarten; I’ve played every sport from roller hockey to basketball, but surprisingly I never played football until my freshman year of high school. As for what I do best on the field I would say it is pulling…that and coming up and around and getting to the second level and taking out backers. One major aspect that I would like to improve on is my drive blocking.
AN: I’ve seen you listed as both a guard and a center prospect from various recruiting sites. Did Navy recruit you specifically as one or the other? Do you see yourself as a player who could even play tackle in an offense like Navy’s?
GV: Navy’s offensive line coaches have told me that they will use me in whatever position they need to be filled because of my versatility. I can definitely see myself playing tackle in an offense like Navy’s.
AN: Tell me about the type of offense you played in at Diamond Ranch HS. Is it similar to Navy’s triple option offense? What were the blocking schemes like? How do you think the transition will be into the flexbone offense that Navy runs?
GV: The kind of offense we ran at Diamond Ranch was more of a Power I and more of a run dominated offense. I wouldn’t say it’s similar to Navy’s offensive package but we ran about the same amount of run plays as Navy. I think I will transition very well into the flexbone offense since I am used to going up to the second level.
AN: Do you know what you want to major in?
GV: As of right now I have no idea what I will like to major in; luckily I have some time to decide.
AN: What do you know about the service commitment for after you graduate? Have any potential service selections (Marine Corps, Surface Warfare, Aviation, etc…) especially interested you?
GV: I know that I will have to commit five years to active duty. I am leaning more towards aviation right now because I have always wanted to fly.
AN: Finish the sentence. The one thing Navy fans should know about me is…
GV: I hate to lose and I will do anything to win.
Adam Nettina welcomes reader comments and feedback. He can be contacted at AdamNettina[at]gmail.com.