Aaron Graves Kicks Things Off for Hawkeyes’ 22 Class

June 25, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Mike Swieter heard a standout junior high player was coming his way. It wasn’t the first time the Gowrie (IA) Southeast Valley coach had been told this tale. sometimes reality failed to live up to the hype.

Not this time.

When Swieter first laid his eyes on Aaron Graves, he was convinced he had a special player. That proved true Tuesday when his sophomore-to-be defensive end receivded an Iowa offer and committed to the Hawkeyes, their first verbal in the ’22 Class.

“The first time I talked to him after seeing him play, I told him not to worry about JV. He’d be with me on the varsity right away,” Swieter said.

Graves camped at Iowa on Sunday. That performance sealed the deal for the staff, which had been evaluating him. Recently retired assistant Reese Morgan began the pursuit of the prospect and LeVar Woods took over from there.

Southeast Valley, a 2A school that pulls students from communities south of Fort Dodge, finished 8-3 last season with upset wins against Algona and Spirit Lake. Its 2,000-yard running back, Kyler Fisher, committed to Iowa as a walk-on in the ’19 class.

Despite being a freshman, Graves (6-5, 235) led his team and ranked second in 2A with 11 sacks. He also racked up 15 tackles for loss and 52.5 total stops.

“I honestly, I never took him out of games, maybe expect for a few special teams. He has a motor absolutely like nobody I’ve ever coached. He’s by far the most advanced freshman I’ve ever coached. From Day 1 you could just tell that this kid was special. I told people from Day 1 that I feel he’s a Division I football player,” Swieter said.

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Colleges shared that opinion. Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa and others came around. Word was spreading.

But when Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz called and extended the scholarship offer, the recruitment was over.

“His only goal was Iowa. I had other colleges here, and he wanted the Iowa Hawkeyes. Even when I would have Iowa State there, he said he appreciated it, but that isn’t where he want to play,” Swieter said.

“So, they got a guy that wanted to play for them as much as they wanted him playing for them. This isn’t a kid that’s going to get an offer somewhere down the road and move on. He will only do their camps. If Alabama called tomorrow, he would not take it. This is done.”

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Swieter said Graves trains constantly to get better and loves being the weight room. He also plays basketball and competes in track.

“He’s a full-grown man in a 16-year old’s body. He has no fat on him. God gave him this big body and he’s taking advantage of it. He a horse,” Swieter said.

Graves lined up at guard on offense and end on defense last season. Swieter plans to move him around this year, employing him at offensive tackle and nose guard.

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Like many small communities in Iowa, it’s big news and uplifting when one of their own makes it big. That was the case when Fisher accepted his walk-on offer from Iowa.

The news of Graves receiving a full-ride from Iowa will bring even more pride to Gowrie and the 13 surrounding towns that feed into Southeast Valley. Graves lives in Dayton, Iowa.

“We’re small. When we play at other schools, there’s a McDonald’s. When they come to our town, there’s a Casey’s. This is big for our small community. It’s special for the school,” Swieter said.

The coach doesn’t see the achievement going to Graves’ head. If anything, it will motivate him more.

“He’s not one of those kids that will relax now. He’ll go twice as hard to prove he deserves that scholarship,” Swieter said.

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