Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.) safety Su’a Cravens — the nation’s No. 1 safety and No. 5 overall recruit for the class of 2013 — recalls his initial experience playing football at age seven.
“I was heavier for my age, so I played with older boys,” Cravens says. “My mom was real nervous that I’d get hurt.”
Actually, it was Cravens who wound up doing the damage against the nine and 10-year-olds he played against.
On the first day of hitting drills, while performing one-on-ones, “I laid out the best player on the team,” Cravens says.
Cravens intense love of the game was born at that moment. As a sixth grader, he put aside hanging out with friends at the beach in place of performing 50 pushups.
Surprised? Don’t be. Cravens’ mature drive explains the reasoning. “If you want to be the best at what you do, master your craft,” he says.
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection told us how else he’s done so.
You started training at a young age. Describe your motivation.
Cravens: When I was younger, my friends would say, ‘Su, let’s go play’, but my dad would tell me, ‘You’re not going anywhere until you do your pushups.’ I’d end up missing the beach. At first I’d get mad, but later I really appreciated it. It taught me discipline. You have to handle your business.
Now I see those kids who were going to the beach, and they’re complaining because they don’t have scholarships, and they’re not getting recruited. I was at home putting in the work.
How did your father influence you?
My dad always told me if you get complacent, somebody’s going to get better than you.
I don’t want that. I’m a very competitive person. If I see that somebody’s getting an edge on me, I do whatever I can to get the edge back.
How have you trained to keep your edge?
During the summer, I’d work out in my garage, then I’d run and backpedal up a hill. It’s like 250 yards, and 100 of it is incline.
After that, I’d go to the pool. I worked out with my older brother (Siaki, a defensive lineman for Hawaii). He’s 250 pounds. He’d get on my back, and I’d have to run halfway through the pool, swim to the other side, swim back and carry him all the way through. We’d do that 10 times in three minutes. If we didn’t, we’d start over — and there were no breaks.
That’s really intense. I bet your intensity didn’t stop there.
I don’t like feeling like I’m taking days off. Whenever someone would offer me a ride, I’d say no just so I could get a leg workout. I remember I walked five miles home one time because I couldn’t squat that day.
Tell us how your approach to the game has shifted over the years. What did it mean to play then versus now?
My freshman year, I was so caught up in the jersey, the girls and people knowing that you’re on varsity. I was the first freshman to ever start at my school. That was big, but at the same time irrelevant because I wasn’t focused on us playing.
I earned my first scholarship when I was a freshman, and from that day forward, I was all business. I knew that my future would depend on how hard I work. I play this game not only to go to the NFL, but to succeed and be one of the best. I made sure that I didn’t waste the talents God gave me.
What’s your mindset on days you feel too physically or mentally exhausted to train?
There are going to be days when you don’t want to get up to workout, but you have to. The times when you don’t want to do something, those are the workouts that matter the most. Once you finish that workout, you’re going to be proud of yourself.
What advice can you offer for athletes who want to make it?
Be more mature than the people around you. If you want to be successful, yet you’re hanging out with a bunch of troublemakers, you’re not heading in the right direction.
Take care of your business. I found out in this world, it’s hunt or be hunted. You have to get yours, and sometimes you’re going to lose friends on the way. Sometimes things aren’t going to work out, but you got to do what’s going to help you with your success.
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Another one of the nation's best safeties, Newnan (Ga.) senior Tray Matthews, explains how he's gotten to where he is today.