Aaron Graves Named MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year

By RossWB on June 8, 2022 at 6:15 pm
hello, mr graves
© Bryon Houlgrave, The Register, Des Moines Register via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The incoming freshman class for Iowa football -- aka the Class of '22 recruits -- contains some exciting prospects, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We've been swooning over the potential of Xavier Nwankpa in Iowa's secondary since the 5* recruit made his decision to join Iowa. And while we're stil plenty excited to see what Nwankpa can do in black and gold this fall, there might be another Iowa defensive recruit that we've been overlooking a bit -- one of who might be able to make plenty of noise in his own right this fall. Because Aaron Graves wrapped up one hell of a prep career this year, earning MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year honors in the process. 

Not bad for a kid from Dayton, Iowa, who went to a little-known 2A program known as Southeast Valley. The MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year Award is a true national honor and it's gone to some players who went to have just a bit of success in the collegiate (or professional) ranks, including Derrick Henry, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Lonzo Ball, and Jalen Suggs. Granted, winning the award isn't a guarantee of success -- other past winners include the likes of Garrett Gilbert, Anthony Alford, and Tim Tawa and if you don't recognize some of those names, well, that's kind of the point. But still: the hit rate of past winners is pretty good and it's never a bad thing to earn national recognition for your talent and production. (A full list of past winners is available here.) 

And "productive" certainly describes Graves, a four-sport athlete who excelled in multiple discplines. Graves already earned Adidas All-America and Gatorade Player of the Year accolades for his exploits in 2021-22, which included leading Southeast Valley to a first-ever state championship while being named first-team all-state and all-district. He played offense and defensive line and amassed 63 tackles this season, including 14 TFL and 7.5 sacks. He even punted for Southeast Valley and owns the school records for longest punt and best punting average (38.0 yards per kick). 

Graves is also Southeast Valley's career leading scorer in basketball with 1536 points; he averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds a game as a senior. He was a high-level wrestler as well, finishing 4th at heavyweight as a junior and a senior. And he placed fifth in the state championships in shot put, too. 

Graves arrives at Iowa seeking to earn playing time on the defensive line, a young unit that showed improvement throughout the season last year. Iowa does return everyone from last year's defensive line two-deeps except standout defensive end Zach VanValkenburg, so Graves will certainly have to earn his snaps next fall. But defensive line is a position where young talent has often been able to get on the field at Iowa and Graves seems to have the talent and the drive to make an instant impact this fall. At the very least, it seems like a good bet that he could earn a spot in Iowa's DL rotation. 

Whatever the case, we're damn excited to see what he can do in an Iowa uniform, both this fall and over the next few years. Being named MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year certainly marks him as a player with considerable potential and a possible new young terrormonster for Phil Parker's defense. Give em hell, Aaron. 

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