Dave Boling

Dave Boling: Huge Vita Vea looks like an NFL defender in a UW jersey

AP

Do you know how many people are 6-foot-5, 345 pounds and still quick and agile?

I don’t either, but I know they have a name for them: wealthy NFL defensive linemen.

On Wednesday morning, one of this rare breed — Vita Vea — was still in a Washington Husky football jersey as the team completed its second day of spring drills.

And rather than preparing for the upcoming NFL draft, Vea will continue to be the world’s most substantial anthropology student and scholar (3.10 GPA).

Ask Vea about his decision not to make himself available for early entry into the NFL draft, and he’ll tell you it wasn’t even a consideration.

“Going to the NFL, nah, not really,” he said. “There was talk about it, but I knew this was where I had to be.”

Talk? Some had him projected as the No. 5 defensive tackle prospect in the draft, and a likely second-round pick. His versatility and size give Vea the look of somebody the pros could play anywhere from nose tackle all the way out to the 5-technique end.

But his logic is sound. Another season of improvement, and Vea very likely could turn into another draftee like former Husky Danny Shelton (No. 12 overall pick in 2015).

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Vea had five sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss, although he was largely used in a rotation that included Elijah Qualls — who has declared for the NFL as an underclassman.

Vea simplified his reason to return to UW: “Improvement in football.”

But don’t dismiss the value of those anthropology classes. “Learning about my (Polynesian) culture and ancestry,” he said when asked of the appeal of anthropology. “There’s a lot I’ve brought to my major, sharing my (cultural) experiences.”

More than 70,000 fans may not be able to cheer Vea in his classes, but they’ll be paying attention on Saturdays as his role will be expanded and ever-more valued.

A common question among fans is how the Husky defense mitigates the losses of three secondary players — Budda Baker, Sidney Jones and Kevin King — likely to be high NFL draft picks?

Well, in part by turning Vita Vea loose on the defensive front. More pressure up front makes life easier for the cover guys back deep.

Vea already won the genetic lottery, but a lengthy career is built on the foundation of technique.

Vea appears to have learned the magic of leverage, several times on Wednesday firing out low, getting under a blocker’s pads and driving him backward like a forklift.

This makes his size and strength efficient. What makes it truly devastating is that it’s so mobile.

Picture this: At Milpitas (Cal.) High, he spent four seasons as a running back.

“I try,” he said of his high-revving motor and willingness to get out and pursue ballcarriers. “Coach (Chris Petersen) does a good job of preaching to us … run as hard as you can.”

Wednesday, when the Husky defense was running gassers back and forth across the field after practice, the nearly 350-pound Vea was finishing close to the middle of the pack of his teammates on every one.

Understand the significance of that: After a spring practice in March, one of the biggest men on the field was pushing himself that hard. Guys his size are usually at the back of the pack.

It says a lot about Vea’s discipline and desire.

And that’s why he’s still in a UW uniform during these spring drills, and why he’s likely to have a big season and be a first-round draft pick next spring.

“I grew up never being satisfied,” he explained. “Always being hungry to get better.”

The potential is scary, and UW fans now get the chance to watch it for another football season.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440, @DaveBoling

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