It is a story of regret.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — At 6-feet-5 and 340 pounds, Washington’s star defensive lineman, Vita Vea, is an imposing presence, even as he is sitting down, smiling and laughing and telling stories, as he was at a podium Wednesday morning during a Fiesta Bowl press conference.
He told one story from his freshman year at Milpitas High School near San Jose, Calif. It is a story of regret.
Even then, as a freshman playing on varsity in 2009, Vea was bigger than most. He was about 6-4 and 270 pounds then. That’s good size for a high school defensive lineman. It is just about unheard of for a high school quarterback.
Yes, Vea was a high school QB … at least on occasion. He was mostly a Wildcat QB. The one occasion his high school coach, Kelly King, let Vea throw the ball, well, it didn’t go quite as planned.
Vea explained Wednesday:
“My coach gave me one chance to throw the ball, and it was just one of those chances where you’re in your head too much like, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta make this play. I gotta pout all this power into one throw.’ Then I get back there and throw it and the ball goes flying like 50 feet in the air. It’s like, oh my gosh. The receiver was trying to catch it, but he’s looking up. That was my only chance. I ruined it.”
Vea did have six rushing attempts as the Wildcat QB in 2009, gaining 48 yards and scoring one touchdown. As a 280-pound senior, he was the change-of-pace running back and gained 578 yards on 47 carries (12.3 yards per carry) and scored 11 touchdowns.
“He’s a one of a kind,” Milpitas coach Kelly King told The Times recently. “Because he moves so well and he’s so athletic for his size.”
Vea has played exclusively defense for the Huskies — and that seems to be going well enough for him. Pac-12 coaches voted him the Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year this year and some project him as a top-15 NFL draft pick next spring.
“He was extremely raw coming in. And that’s why I think the guy still has huge upside,” UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said Wednesday.