Growing up in Pasadena, in the shadows of the Rose Bowl, Ryan Graves, 6-1, 170, Venice (Calif.) High, long had dreamed of playing his collegiate football there.
“I didn’t really grow up a fan of college football, I was more of an NFL guy,” Graves said. “But I always thought about playing my college football there, in some way.”
When the chance came to fulfill that dream and UCLA offered him a scholarship, Graves added it to his list of suitors (that included Arizona, Arizona State, Boston College, Tulane, Michigan, Washington State and USC). But after a few weeks of thinking about it, Graves decided to make that dream possible and committed to UCLA.
“I called the coaches on Friday to let them know, and did it for good on Monday. I’m real excited to be able to go to UCLA. I always wanted to play in the Rose Bowl, and now my family can come and see me play for the next four years,” said Graves, rated the #9 receiver on the West Coast with a bullet.
Graves had watched UCLA growing up, going to games at the Rose Bowl, but his connection to UCLA really came when coaches Eric Bieniemy and Jon Embree, who were recruiting Graves to Colorado, left Boulder to go to Westwood. That connection carried to UCLA, and Bieniemy continued to recruit Graves.
“I really liked Coach Bieniemy and Coach Embree. They are real good people, and outside of sports, I know they are going to be good to be around. And Coach Dorrell, he is a real cool person. He has some things in mind that he wants to do and I know he is going to get the program turned around and have some special seasons.”
Following a monster junior year, in which he was a Student Sports Underclass All-American after catching 106 balls, for 1,499 yards and 16 touchdowns from Tulane-bound QB Richard Irvin, Graves decided to leave Pasadena Muir and head to Venice.
“The coaches at Muir changed every year, wanting to run the Wing T. They were always rebuilding. I am senior, and I don’t have time for rebuilding. I want to win now,” said Graves.
That led to the transfer to Venice, where things have been working out better than expected for Graves.
”They selected me a team captain. We have a good team here and the summer has been going real good,” he said.
The summer is where Graves began to really stoke the interest of UCLA. He played with Venice at the Nike 7-on-7 Championship, and though they were knocked out in the first round, Graves made his mark in that matchup with Mater Dei. “The tournament was real cool. We got to see where we are and who we are going up against. That was a few weeks after I was at the UCLA Camp.”
The UCLA camp is where Graves showed what he could do to the UCLA staff. And the reaction from the staff to his performance made an impact. “Every last one of the coaches came and shook my hand and introduced themselves, and I really liked that. All of the coaches are real cool, and that meant a lot to me. I know I can fit in well with those kinds of people.”
With the commitment already out of the way, Graves can focus on his last year of high school football and other things besides recruiting. “Now I am going to go to games, knowing I am going to be playing there, recruit some guys and keep my academics up (Graves has a 3.1 GPA) but have fun with my season. It’s going to be a fun year.”