There was a time that players transferred away from Tulsa East Central to find great football, but since the arrival of head coach Travis Hill the Cardinals have become a class 5A powerhouse winning the state title in 2005. Since then players keep finding their way into East Central's program and one of the latest names to emerge is 2009 prospect Pearlie Graves a 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive tackle.
Graves transferred from Central high school in Oklahoma's second largest city and was born in Tulsa, but hasn't spent his entire life in Central America. He actually spent several years in the New Jersey area, where most of his family still resides.
In his first year at East Central Graves emerged as one of the state's most talented juniors and says that the move has taught him a lot about being more than just big and fast but having proper technique.
"When I came over to East Central, it was a whole different technique, I had to go in there and learn. At first it was kind of hard, but after a while I got used to it," Graves said. "I was just bigger, sometimes stronger, playing against East Central, I was just quicker than their linemen.
"Learning better technique coming over to East Central, made me way better. I had to learn how to use my hands better, wrestling will help me even more with my hand movements."
As mentioned, Graves is wrestling for the first time in his life in the heavyweight division and is currently 2-2 on the season wrestling usually at roughly 15 pounds less than his opponents.
While he is certainly putting in the necessary work to make himself a better player he says the motivation isn't that hard to find with recruiters constantly stopping by the Tulsa power.
"It's a big difference, at Central I was getting recognized because people would see me playing against someone on the other team they were coming to watch. I told myself it didn't matter if they were watching others I was going to make them watch me," he said. "Still though at East Central, it's a little more accessible. You've got coaches coming in just asking about you. Coaches weren't coming through at Central they are through all the time at East Central."
The big defensive lineman says he is already getting interest from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Purdue, and Arizona State. However, his ties to the Northeast gives one Big 10 school a distinct advantage, but a Big 12 school has already made a positive impression.
"I grew up in New Jersey, so my family wants me to go up North to school and be closer to the family. If I wanted to go to any school it would be Penn State, I think down south I'd really want to go to Kansas State," he said.
"I'd like to go to a college where people know me, I don't feel comfortable moving into a state where I don't know anybody; it's too easy to go from right to wrong, trying to get used to everything. If you do something wrong you aren't trying to do all the time and jail; you just try and stay out of trouble," he said.
While East Central is a power in the city, the state's unmovable object is in South Tulsa, and Graves said that's where he started out his athletic career and made himself a football player.
"I started at Jenks, and started seeing kids my age playing football; I was just watching. I was just a big fat and lazy boy," Graves recalled. "I didn't get into football until about my fourth grade year, I started playing then."
The big lineman says he still has some work to do in the classroom but if he keep son track he should be a full qualifier and his helping his cause by taking an ACT prep class to try and prepare himself for that aspect of qualification. While that prep work is something the coaches at Penn State will want to see he says that outside of an offer from the Nittany Lions, he is no hurry.
"I want to take a lot of visits, whatever college gives me a full ride, I'll go immediately to try out that school," he said. "Most schools say before they offer they want to get me on campus and have a good look at me."
Speaking of campuses he needs to get to, Graves will be visiting Oklahoma for their Jr. day this Saturday and says that while there are other schools he is also looking at the Sooners have caught his eye.
"Oh yeah, I'm ready to go down for that," he said. "It's a good program, I'd like to see what they are doing down there."
Graves who shares the sentiments of many coaches by seeing himself as a three-technique defensive tackle says that while he won't ever be a Ted Washington on the interior of the offensive line his athleticism will help him emerge as a quality interior defensive tackle.
"You have to keep your speed, I just have to put on the burst of speed," he said.
Many have assumed 'Pearlie' to be a nickname but it's in fact his real name and one his family carries with pride, he does however have a nickname that is more recognizable to millions.
"It's a family name, my papa, his son, my dad wasn't there to name me. My dad was around but not really in my life so my papa said 'just name him Pearlie' and my mom did," he explained. "My nickname though is 'King Kong'. I used to get ragged on a lot about being a big, strong kid. So after a while I was like let that be my nickname, then it came to like, hey I must be strong like him and big like him."
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