Vik: What’s up guys? Vik, here from the Big Lead. Excited to jump on today with Malik Reaves out of Villanova. This should be a fun call, this kid’s an absolute monster on the defensive end. Let’s kick this off and get it going.
Thanks for jumping on with me. Excited to talk to you, especially with the Draft coming up. So, the Draft is around the corner, how you are feeling, you ready for it? Has it set in yet?
Malik: I’m definitely excited. I’m excited and anxious.
Vik: Nice, and what are your plans for it? Where are you going to be?
Malik: Right now, I’m in Jacksonville and I’m here training. I got a couple of top thirty visits setup. I have a work out, I’m doing two local days. I’m going to be pretty busy for the month of April. It’s just a lot of flights, different locations, different teams, different visits, and things like that.
Vik: That’s the grind. Before we jump into some questions, I always love to hear athlete’s stories. What’s your story and what got you into football? How long have you been playing for? Anything that inspires you?
Malik: I’ve been playing football since I was around six years old, team football. I’ve been playing football since maybe six years old and that’s where I took off, that’s where it started. My dad and my brothers, I’m from a football family, everybody, football is everything to us.
I wanted to first play baseball to be honest with you, because my dad is a really good baseball player as well. Once I was playing baseball and I tried to swing, I missed the ball, missed the ball, the ball hit me in the head, and then I didn’t want to play baseball again. I just knew football was my sport from the first day. I just threw on some pads, broke a tackle, and just ran. I never looked back. I stayed with it all the way through, in middle school, high school, college, and that’s where I am now with it.
Vik: That’s awesome, I love that story. You’re a solid player and you were invited to the East-West Shrine game. I know you had a strong week there, how do you feel you did there?
Malik: I feel like I did well of course. You know, you always want to do better than well. You want to be at your best, but I feel like I showed the teams that I could cover just as well I could tackle, and I can cover any level of competition. I’m a ballplayer, that’s pretty much why I wanted to go out there and show them. That because I played at Villanova doesn’t mean I play down the competition or I’m not capable of playing high level competition.
I feel like I’m at the same level and pedestal as all those guys are too. That was my goal to go down there and show the teams what I’m capable of.
Vik: That’s big. I love that attitude. So, I’m sure you’re a little disappointed not being able to parlay that into the Senior Bowl or NFL Combine invite. How do you feel about it? Was it something that got you down? Are you kind of using it as motivation?
Malik: I used it more so as motivation, it was out of my control at that point. I don’t like to handle things that are out of my control, I like to just focus on what I can control and focus on the things that I could do better and improve on. It was more so motivation, but I didn’t really need much motivation though. But yes, that definitely was a little boost of motivation I would say.
Vik: I’m sure you can impress them when they get another chance to look at you, you got to keep trying. How was Pro day? I know you were a little bit sick and of course that influenced your performance there. Did you let anybody know about it or did you just kind of grind through it a little bit?
Malik: I was in our Student Health Center, so I was on antibiotics and all, pretty much. But I knew personally that I’ll be good to go. I just went in there with a positive attitude. I wasn’t going to walk around showing that I was sick, walk around depressed because I’m sick and I got sick. I just went in there, did what I could do. Of course, I feel like I underperformed and I’m disappointed in myself, but it’s just something that I have to keep moving forward with and just keep striving to get better at this point. Hopefully at these private workouts and all these kinds of things, I think I can show them what I’m really capable of when I’m not under the weather.
Vik: Exactly, that’s where I think you’re going to shine. So, teams are going to be digging through all your old footage now. I know the crazy stat with you was you didn’t allow a touchdown this past year, which was pretty amazing.
What’s the one game you think scouts should check out if they ask you or they’re kind of digging through a little bit? What would you say is one of your best games?
Malik: I probably would tell them to look at the one we played at the University of Maine, if I had a preference of the game this year. I just feel like my dominance showed in that game. I had a forced fumble, interception, just physically I just felt like I was 100% there. This was one of those games where everything clicked for you. You know what’s coming next, like exactly where they’re going to run it, the route trees. Like one time, I’m not going to lie, I’m in a defense already, but they came out in wildcat one play. I watched film that week and them coming in the wildcat, whenever they shifted their running back over, it was always a quarterback sneak, 100%.
I was supposed to be sitting there, waiting to read, fill a gap and make our linebackers hit it. I pretty much knew what was coming, I kind of fell back a little bit, made it look like I was in coverage and then at the snap of the ball, I just filled the C gap and punched the ball out and picked it up and went running, 103 yards. It was the game where everything clicked perfectly.
Vik: That also shows you can adjust your mental level, that’s terrific. I know you grew up in Jacksonville so are you a Jags fan?
Malik: Yes, I am a Jags fan.
Vik: Okay and you’re a physical guy, you’re an aggressive guy, do you spend a lot of time watching Jalen Ramsey and some of those monsters back there?
Malik: I definitely do. I enjoy watching them, he’s definitely one of the most exciting players in the NFL, in my opinion. I watch a lot of A.J. Bouye as well. I watch Colvin too, I love the energy they bring as a defensive unit in general.
Vik: You’re a physical guy, and you’re one of the best tacklers out there as well. Are you trying to mimic those guys in Jacksonville or is there another DB you’re trying to be like as well?
Malik: Corner wise or just in general?
Vik: Just in general.
Malik: If I get to choose a DB to match who plays physical, fast, strong and things like that, I’d probably choose Xavier Rhodes. I love the way he plays. He’s pretty good. A big body and I enjoy watching him play. I like the way comes down and tackles. I like the way he plays back cover and how physical he is with receivers, and he just backs it up every game.
Vik: I’m a Bears fan, trust me, I know that guy is a beast. I’ve seen him firsthand. So, the next level is here, where do you see yourself playing at the next level? Do you see yourself playing at any position in the secondary or you prefer to be a corner?
Malik: I don’t have a preference, I’ll play anything. I’ll play gunner for 14 years, it doesn’t make a difference to me. Wherever I’m at, I’m going to make plays. I’m going to try to make plays. I’m going to try to be the best player at it no matter what. I don’t really care what position I play.
Vik: That’s an amazing attitude and I love that about you. Let’s get into some fun questions I like to ask all my guys. I’m a Chicago Bears guy and the Bears need some help in the secondary. If the Bears draft you, you ready? What do you know about the Chicago Bears?
Malik: I know a little bit about the Chicago Bears. I’m not going to lie, I play a lot of Madden. I have a Bears beanie that I love, I had a Bears beanie since High School. I just used to love watching the Bears. I used to love watching Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, matt forte. I just used to love watching all of them. Tillman, Peanut, he was good. I used to love watching all of that. I know a little bit about the Bears. Probably not as much as you know about Bears though. I enjoy their colors too.
Vik: We can use a kid like you. And then if you come here, you got to be ready for some deep-dish pizza. Have you tried some of it?
Malik: Deep-dish pizza? I have never had it.
Vik: All right, if you get drafted by the Bears, I’m going to take you to go have some.
Malik: I’m going to hold you to that. Deep dish pizza now.
Vik: For sure, it’s different, you got to try it. It’s the best pizza in the country.
How about routine? What’s some of your stuff pregame wise or what do you listen to before a game to get you hype?
Malik: Before the game, I listen to a dude named Marvin Sapp. He’s more of a gospel singer. I just listen to him because going into the game, I don’t really like to hype myself. I’m already going, my adrenaline’s already up. I just need something to get my head at ease and just put my mind right, so I listen to Marvin Sapp ‘Never would have made it” every game. That’s my favorite song.
Vik: Nice, I’m going to check that out for sure after this call. How about routine wise?
Malik: Before every game I have Pedialyte. I got my headphones with me. I just plug in, I go to the field and just sit there on the field, kind of trying to imagine myself making a play. I just go out there and play the best game I could play on game day.
Vik: What do you do for fun besides football? Is there anything else that you’re kind of into or is football life?
Malik: No, I mean I do a lot of things. I have my nephew. I probably spend a lot of time with him whenever I can. I love movies. I try to watch as many movies as I can. I’m a big movie person. That’s my number one thing I do, I’m a movie fan. I’ve probably seen the majority of the movies that are made.
I can sit there and watch eight movies in a row, eyes burning and everything. I like to go fishing when I’m home in Jacksonville. I think fishing is probably the most fun thing I do though.
Vik: I’m not a big fisher, but I’ve tried it and it is pretty cool and most importantly, it’s relaxing.
Malik: Yes, it’s just fun. I don’t know why, but I can just sit there and just fish for hours and just have a great time.
Vik: How about movies? What kind of movies do you love? Are you excited for like the Avengers one coming out?
Malik: Yes, I am. I can’t wait, it comes out I think April 26th. I’m definitely going to be in the movies watching that one for sure. I don’t really have a preference when it comes to movies, my favorite movie is the Notebook. The Notebook is my number one favorite movie. The Book of Eli with Denzel Washington, those are my two favorite movies I like the story line and the things with it. First time I watched the Book at Eli, I never knew he was blind. Once I realized he was blind, I had to watch it again. My whole opinion changed.
Vik: You are a pretty well thought out kid, which is another thing I love, and you are a solid football player. I’ll be wishing you all the best. I’ll definitely be rooting for you. I’m hoping the Bears can snag you up so I could take you to go eat some pizza. And maybe watch the Notebook together. Good luck with everything, especially with the Draft coming up.
Malik: Thank you.
*Edited for clarity