Law of the Jungle

Four years ago, Jovan Haye had never played a down of football; two years ago he had never played defense. Today the man his teammates call "Jungle" is a team captain as a third-year sophomore defensive lineman. Haye talked earlier this week about the unusual series of events that led him to a football scholarship at Vanderbilt. (Part 4 of a series of reports from SEC Media Days.)

Editor's Note: The following is a compilation of questions asked Tuesday of Vanderbilt sophomore defensive end Jovan Haye on Tuesday at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala. The questions were posed by a group of reporters from around the South.

Q: Are you surprised that you're a sophomore and a team captain?

Jovan Haye: Yes, very surprised. The coaches allowed the players to vote for their captains. They told us it wasn't going to be the coaches' decision, it was going to be the team's. We found out at a team meeting, and [Coach Johnson] announced it at our spring game.

Q: What did you do in the spring to win this much favor?

A: I came in with a new philosophy-- just wanting to dominate on every play, and try to help my team get where it needed to be.

Q: In what ways are you a better player than you were this time last year?

A: I learned the game a lot last year... I mean, until the twelfth game of the season, I was still confused when it comes to schemes, what the offense was doing. I was just concentrating more on watching film and listening to my coaches.

Q: You've only played football for four years. What was it like that first year in high school? You were playing on the offensive line? You must have been lost.

A: Yes, I was. That was my first time playing football, period. Coaches just told me to go out and block somebody.

Q: At what point did you realize you might have a chance for a college scholarship?

A: The end of my junior year. We were getting ready to go to camps, and a lot of scouts were coming up. We attended the Auburn camp, Michigan State. I knew then that it was possible.

Q: Tell me about making the transition from offensive line to defensive line.

A: Actually I made the transition from offensive line to linebacker. I got redshirted because I hurt my shoulder. But when I came in, I was a linebacker / defensive lineman. It was rough. That was my first time handling the crowds.

Q: What kind of expectations do you guys have for this year? Do you say, we expect to win this many games?

A: We expect to win all our games. That's just how you've got to think. You can't go out there and choose the games you want to win or lose. We as a team just want to win all 12 games this year.

Q: Did you play offensive line both your junior and senior year of high school? Then you were recruited and switched to defense?

A: Yes sir. Being recruited, I knew I wasn't going to play offensive line. It was either linebacker or defensive end.

Q: So you've never had more than two seasons back-to-back when you've played the same position. You must feel like you're still learning the game.

A: Yeah. It's coming much faster, but I've still got a lot to learn. I'm just a redshirt sophomore, so I've got three more years left to learn everything. Even then I probably won't learn everything.

Q: Since you didn't play football until your junior year, what sports were you playing?

A: Basketball, soccer. [In soccer] I was a pretty good defensive player, but I couldn't score or anything. In basketball I played small forward. It was at the JV level. I gave up the basketball dream, though.

Q: Have you had any trouble adjusting to Bobby Johnson's no-cursing policy, or did that kind of come natural to you?

A: I had no problem with it. It's just something he's tried to instill in us. I just let it be.

Q: Have you ever gotten caught? What was the punishment for it?

A: I haven't really. I've seen other players get caught. They'll do pushups, sit-ups, get a warning.

Q: You said you were on campus all summer. How was the conditioning program for you? Really hard?

A: No. I was well conditioned. Coming in as a freshman, they give you a package. I love lifting weights and running.

Q: How did you make the decision to choose football over other sports your senior year?

A: I just saw a lot of my friends getting scholarships playing football. Football in the South Florida is, you know. I made my mind up I was going to play, regardless. My mother didn't want me to play.

Q: Did you have to sell your Mom on letting you play?

A: Actually my younger brother [Michael] kind of sold my Dad on it. He kept egging him, saying I could get a scholarship. I guess he thought he could do it too. So I went out and got a physical. My Mom was kind of mad for the first couple of months. But I guess when the scholarship offers started coming in, she sort of settled in.

Q: How'd you get your nickname, "Jungle"?

A: It was one of my teammates who went to Arkansas State. I was never really that good in basketball. I had no finesse. I couldn't dribble. I just rebounded. One day he was just, "You play like you're out in the jungle." After that, it stuck. A lot of people don't even know my real name! Top Stories