By Nick Shook
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INDIANAPOLIS — Vita Vea stepped to the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine and declared his desire to make teams aware of who he is as a player and as a person.
He did quite a job with reporters on Saturday.
Vea, a 6-foot-4, 347-pound defensive tackle, recalled tales of his time carrying the football as a running back (“I try to think I was L.T., LaDainian Tomlinson back in the day”) and his crushed quarterback dreams, and talked about the pain caused by cutting back on carbs. Vea also sarcastically called out his former teammate John Ross, telling him he was coming for Ross’ 40-yard dash record and the private island once up for grabs in 2017.
That was just the beginning of Vea’s charismatic session.
UCLA’s Kolton Miller, Vea’s training partner at EXOS, raved Friday about Vea’s freakish athleticism for his size, focusing especially on the defensive tackle’s remarkable straight-line speed. When asked by this reporter what time he’s aiming to run in the 40-yard dash, Vea quipped “fast,” followed by a grin.
“Kolton, if you’re listening to me, congrats on the new record for the broad jump for O-linemen,” Vea said later in the session.
The Bay Area native successfully tightroped a question of where his allegiances lie, 49ers or Raiders, placing the responsibility on his Niner-fan family without specifically owning it. Vea also paid respect to standout Washington nose tackles who came before him, including the Browns‘ Danny Shelton, whose wedding Vea was a groomsman in last weekend.
For a 340-pound man, a suit was probably tough to find, right?
“Uh, no, Men’s Wearhouse, they do a good job with all the measurements,” Vea said. “They have outstanding tailors to find the right cloth that won’t rip when we wear it.”
If Vea goes back and watches his interview, he’ll probably like the way he looks. It wasn’t difficult to envision future endorsement opportunities for him. He also taught a history lesson on where he lined up while at Washington, starting his response with “if you put on the film,” which loosely translates to check my tape.
The tape on Vea is marvelous. He’s a wrecking ball of a lineman, routinely getting his hands into the chests of opposing offensive linemen and driving them backward with a relentless bull rush. Combined with his agility and quickness, Vea is a two-gap defender who drew high praise from many Pac-12 opponents and will almost certainly be selected in the first round.
Before that day comes, though, he’ll first have to finish his weekend of workouts in Indianapolis. He clearly enjoyed having a little fun with media members, but knows it’s time to get down to business, saying he was more focused on “what’s going to happen in about 30 minutes from now” than of outside perception of him.
“I feel like there’s been a lot of hype built around me,” Vea said. “A lot of rumors that have been leaked out. So just, go out there, do my job and live up to the expectations.”
Consider them set — we guarantee it.