football Edit

Ready to report: Aaron Graves

Aaron Graves makes the move to Iowa City on June 12.
Aaron Graves makes the move to Iowa City on June 12. (Nick Lucero/

After wrapping up a historic high school career at Southeast Valley, defensive lineman Aaron Graves is ready to make the move to Iowa City and finally be a Hawkeye. We caught up with the 6-foot-5, 265-pound Graves this week to talk about all of his accomplishments in high school, getting ready for the next step of playing in the Big Ten, and much more.

Q: First, what has this spring been like for you? You have already had multiple graduations right?

GRAVES: Yeah, I graduated from Iowa Central a few weeks ago and then we just had our high school graduation this past Sunday. Other than that, I've pretty much just been working out, getting prepared to actually to get to Iowa.

Q: How did State Track go last weekend?

GRAVES: I threw 53-9 (PR) in the shot put and got 5th.

Q: Can you walk me through getting your AA degree from Iowa Central Community College while still in high school? What was that whole process like for you?

GRAVES: The whole process kind of started my freshman year. The first trimester we kind of laid out how many credits I would need to get to graduate with my AA degree because we figured wherever I go to college sometimes if you don't get the actual degree the classes don't always transfer, so we kind of made it a goal right off the bat to get my degree. We just spread it out through my whole four years at Southeast Valley and I was able to get it all done.

Q: Did you have classmates that did that too or what motivated you to take that route?

GRAVES: I knew it was possible because we had one girl a few years before me do it, but none of my other friends really wanted to do it. They just wanted to get as many credits as they could, but I wanted to actually graduate.

Q: Were there any challenges in getting it all done or was it pretty seamless?

GRAVES: We have a lot of dual credit classes through our school, so a lot of it was classes I was already taking anyway, but I did have to take one class each summer. That wasn't exactly fun, but it was only one class each summer.

Q: Academically, you will be coming in as a junior this year basically. What are you going to major in and pursue academically?

GRAVES: I'm going to major in physiology and do the exercise science program. I'd like to be a strength and conditioning coach. Like Coach Braithwaite's job right now, that would be my dream job pretty much. I'm hoping to work towards my Master's Degree and get that all paid for while I'm playing at Iowa.

Q: With high school graduation and State Track over, have you had any time to reflect on your whole career after earning All-American honors in football and All-State honors in basketball, wrestling, and track as a senior?

GRAVES: I don't really think it's all sunk in what I've done this past year exactly. I kind of just move on to the next thing and that's Iowa football right now, so I'm starting workouts and lifting harder now that I'm done with track. That's more what I'm focused on.

Q: Looking ahead to that, when do you make the move to Iowa City?

GRAVES: June 12th is when I'm moving in.

Q: What are you looking forward to once you arrive?

GRAVES: Eating and lifting weights. Those are the two main things, plus learning the playbook as fast as I possibly can.

Q: Have you found out who you are rooming with?

GRAVES: Yeah, Kale Krogh.

Q: This has all been such a long time coming since you committed right after your freshman year of high school. What's the overall feeling like for you now that it's almost a reality?

GRAVES: I would say like 90% of the time it's just the next step, the next thing in my athletic career, but there's that 10% of the time where it's like I'm actually going to be an Iowa football player in a few weeks. I'm going to be on campus and training, not just talking about it or thinking about it. I'm going to actually be an Iowa Hawkeye. That 10% is kind of crazy when I think about it.

Q: What are you coming in and height and weight wise?

GRAVES: I'm 6-5, 265 lbs. right now.

Q: Have you found out what number you are wearing in college?

GRAVES: #96 I think.

Q: What have you heard from Coach Bell and the staff as far as opportunity or their expectations coming in?

GRAVES: They haven't really talked to me specifically about anything. I think they'll wait until we actually get on campus before any of that, but I did hear in a press conference he said he wasn't expecting me to play week one or anything. While I would like to do that, I know it's not exactly realistic coming in during the summer instead of in the winter because you just don't know the playbook as well. If I can get into the rotation that would be awesome, but I'm just keeping it realistic.

Q: Do you have any certain goals in mind?

GRAVES: I would love to play special teams and maybe get into the rotation, but I know they are really deep at the defensive line position right now so if I don't, I'm not going to get too down on myself. Mainly, my two main goals are to get as athletically fit as possible to play in the Big Ten and to learn the playbook. If I play, I play and if I don't, I don't, but if I can get bigger, faster, and stronger than I was a year ago and I can learn the playbook then I'll be satisfied.

Q: Coach Bell likes a lot of his guys to work inside and out at both defensive tackle and defensive end. Has he talked to you about that yet because it seems like it's something right up your alley?

GRAVES: He hasn't talked to me about it yet, but I'm sure I can do both because I played defensive end for three years in high school and then I played nose guard this year. I'm sure I can be one of those type of guys that plays defensive tackle and a little defensive end.

Q: When you look back at your decision, you made it quickly obviously, but what was it about Iowa that made it the right fit for you would you say?

GRAVES: I think the coaching consistency and the developmental part of the program. You see how many guys they put in the NFL and how long those guys stay in the NFL and I don't think it's a coincidence. The way they develop their guys and coach their guys, they get them pro ready. I think the longevity you see in the NFL from Iowa guys is second to none. It's the way they coach their players and the expectation and the standard they hold for their guys is a lot higher than other places and the way the develop their players is too.

As a high schooler, Graves gave the the Hawkeyes the earliest commitment we have ever seen for football when he accepted their offer on the spot after a camp in June of 2019 following his freshman year.

A four-star prospect, Graves started in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio in January and was named the 2021 Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Iowa. During his senior year at Southeast Valley, he also earned third team All-State honors in basketball, placed fourth at heavyweight at state wrestling, and placed fifth in the shot put at state track.

Last fall, Graves led Southeast Valley to a state championship in football, finishing the season with 63 tackles, 14 TFL, and 7.5 sacks.

See highlights from Graves' senior year in the video below.