GOWRIE — Mark Graves hasn’t had a lot of time to soak in what his son, Aaron, has accomplished or what the future holds for the University of Iowa football recruit.
The father of the Southeast Valley standout has been too busy on the field helping develop Aaron and his top-ranked Jaguar teammates.
Mark, who is in his first year as defensive coordinator for Southeast Valley, has enjoyed the time with son and the rest of the undefeated program.
“His success will be something I look back at later on when all of this is over,” Mark said. “Football to me is such an enjoyable grind, and it seems like these Fridays come and go fast. We enjoy the process with the entire team, and I’m happy my son is a big part of it. Looking at him as an individual, I’ve seen him do some amazing things.
“Nothing Aaron does surprises me anymore. He is a special kid, and we are a football family.”
Being with each other for most of the day and all fall may seem like a lot, but Mark adds there is separation once they hit the front door.
“To be honest, unless he brings it up, we don’t talk much football at home,” Mark said. “Sometimes we will talk about football related things and meeting stuff, but not a lot.”
The sport has afforded the Graves family plenty of opportunities through the years.
“Playing for my dad means a lot,” Aaron said. “Football runs in the family, and him being the defensive coordinator and the line coach has helped me tremendously. There is a little more of a demeanor change in practice compared to at home. It’s more serious.
“Football definitely leaks into the house sometimes when it comes to film and assignments. But it’s not all we talk about.”
Something that tugs at dad’s heart strings, is the effort, dedication and determination of his son.
“He is usually one of the first ones in, and puts in a lot of work,” Mark said. “Aaron catches on pretty fast to a new drill or something on the field. Athletically, he can do anything you want him to do.
“We clash a little bit and dad has to put son in his place every once in a while, but it ends pretty quickly. It’s nice for his teammates to see me chewing his butt, showing that there is no favoritism.”
Aaron announced his intentions of playing at Iowa as a freshman with the Jaguars, so the recruiting process is something he didn’t have to go through. He was able to focus on getting better as a high school football player.
“Committing early was definitely advantageous,” Aaron said. “I know where I’m going and I didn’t have to spend time on visits. I had time to keep training and getting better.
“I try not to think too much into the future, and just focus on one game at a time.”
Dad sees his son getting better each day and worrying about what comes next and not what is coming down the line.
“He just focuses on the now,” Mark said. “He enjoys his classmates and teammates and enjoys being an 18-year old kid that works his tail off — he enjoys it.”
In his first year as defensive coordinator, the Jaguars decided to change to a three-man front defense, with Aaron in the middle.
“This team is so unselfish. We don’t have one player that worries about themselves,” Mark said. “We decided to change the defense to a three-man front and put Aaron right in the middle. We went over to Iowa Central and took some things from them and Jeremy Conley (defensive coordinator). We spent a ton of time over there and picked up a lot of stuff.
“With Aaron in the middle it causes a lot of problems. It helps the rest of the team get free. We have good linebackers and guys up front as well as some backups. Offenses have a tough time running up the middle.”
In his final high school season, dad has been able to watch the process work and see his son and his family make a push for a state championship.
“These kids believe in the entire process,” Mark said. “They work their tails off and have done for 365 days to be good at the end of the year.
“They have been investing their time and effort and it has been about what you are willing to give up to be successful. The special part about this team is them believing.”
The Southeast Valley coaching staff, players and community had high hopes for this season and the Jaguars have not disappointed.
“Coach (Mike) Swieter said throughout the summer our big goal was to win a state title,” Mark said. “At first we were like, ‘really?’ But when the district rankings came out and we had one, two, three and four on our side, it became something we all strived for.
“We are just one big family. We don’t have any drama. We’re close even away from the field.”
In his final season with his classmates, Aaron Graves is embracing every minute he gets to spend with his friends.
“This senior group has been together since the fifth grade,” Aaron said. “We only lost once through grade school and were undefeated in JV and JVR. This is our turn to be on top.
“I couldn’t be anywhere I am without my family, friends and the glory of God.”
STATLINE: AARON GRAVES