30 Minutes with Richard Kovalcheck, Part I

Richard Kovalcheck recently transferred from the University of Arizona to Vanderbilt in an historic case involving a new NCAA rule. Kovalcheck has two years of collegiate eligibility left, and he has completed the requirements for an undergraduate degree. Since he is enrolled in graduate school in a program not offered at his previous school, he is immediately eligible to play.

This rule may be rescinded soon, so he could be the answer to a future trivia question.

Coming out of high school at St. Augustine High in San Diego, Kovalcheck was rated among the top quarterbacks in his graduating class, one which included Chris Leak, JaMarcus Russell, and Brady Quinn. He chose Arizona from among a long list of colleges. After red shirting his first year, he played in six games as a freshman in 2004, completing 47.6% of his passes for 1,039 yards and six touchdowns. He saw his first action coming off the bench against Oregon; the Wildcats were backed up at their own five yard line, and Kovalcheck guided the offense out of danger and down the field. He completed five of 10 passes for 77 yards and two scores, after Arizona had failed to move the ball or score in the first half.

In the season finale against Arizona State, he finished 17 of 31 for 239 yards and three scores through the air, as he guided the Wildcats to a 34-27 upset over their arch-rival.

After playing the season with an ailing back, Kovalcheck underwent surgery and missed the 2005 spring football season. He recovered to near 100% and earned the starting nod, playing in eight games last year. His statistics improved to 56.8% completions for 1,351 yards and 10 touchdowns. He saved his best for two-time defending champion Southern California where he completed 16 of 25 passes for 181 yards and three scores. Against Purdue, he tossed the ball for a career-best 283 yards and three scores.

It's been a few weeks since Kovalcheck moved to Nashville and began his new future with the Vanderbilt football program. After spending three years in the dry desert of Tucson, he has begun to adjust to the hot, hazy, and humid summer climate of the Music City. Recently, I talked with him about his change of scenery.

VandyMania.com: Once you knew you were going to leave the University of Arizona, describe the events that led you from Tucson to Nashville.
Richard Kovalcheck: I earned my degree and wanted to choose a graduate school that would also give me the opportunity to play. I have the opportunity to play here. I really liked the coaches and the players I met, and the chance to get an MBA degree in health care was really valuable.

VM: Speaking of the MBA program, you are enrolled in Owen Graduate School of Management. It is one of the most prestigious graduate schools in the country, and it requires a commensurate amount of dedication and time as playing collegiate football in the Southeastern Conference. How do you plan to balance out this heavy load?
RK: It's a whole different field than undergrad, and it's going to be a full load. I'm excited to do it because I'm not taking classes that I don't care about now. All these classes are something that I'm really interested in and think about all the time. It's not going to be a burden to me to keep the workload properly structured. There are other guys on the football team that are also starting the MBA program.

VM: In the National Football League, a trade can do wonders for a player who found himself in a position far from perfect. A trade can also be a big bust as sometimes, the new situation doesn't pan out. What are you doing right now to help make this trade (transfer) a positive one?
RK: I feel like I'm just getting started. I went through a bunch of different things at Arizona, both ups and downs, and at some times it was a difficult environment to play in. Here, it is a whole new opportunity. I now know a lot more about football than I did a year ago, and I'm ready to use my experience and keep on going with it in a new environment. I've been working my tail off trying to turn myself into the best player I can be. I'm here, and I'm going to work as hard as I can to make the best of it.

Part Two Coming Up

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