Chargers newest vocalist, Ken Veal

When talking about a nose tackle, most will picture a hard-nosed, disciplined player who has nary a moment for laughter. They are the pluggers in the middle of a line of mammoths and they are defined by their outward scowls. Enter Ken Veal, the most jovial lineman of his time. An undrafted free agent signed by the San Diego Chargers out of Georgia, Veal is the antithesis of a typical nose tackle – off the field.

On the field, Ken Veal enjoys the same things as all of his peers. He wants to stick the center and guard to free up penetration lanes for his linebackers.

It isn't all about the linebackers as Veal pitches in too. As a senior at Georgia, Veal collected 43 tackles (19 solo) and had three quarterback pressures. During the Georgia Tech game, Veal brought down a season high seven ball carriers. The athletic nose tackle finishes his career at UGA with 104 tackles and 16 quarterback pressures.

His role in the Georgia defense was as a vocal leader – and we mean vocal in more ways than one.

"I kept everybody's spirits up," Veal retorted. "I was more of a vocal leader. I helped out the defensive line and I was the only senior so I was the only guy with a little more experience than the other guys. They saw that they could come to me and ask me questions and I was there for everyone."

Now he is a rookie in camp, which has humbled him somewhat. He doesn't have the tenure to let his true personality shine through. It is a delicate balance but one that Veal is ready to move forward with.

He sees what is the changing philosophy within the San Diego Chargers defense and wants to be a bigger part of it. While he shies away as a rookie, there is a new aggressive defense in town that has him believing he can approach some players with his advice.

"Being new, it is kind of hard to go tell a 15 year vet you have to run, you have to do such and such," says Veal. "If I see something wrong and I feel like I can help somebody, I am going to help somebody. It has never changed that much. Football has always been a team game. If I can help the team, I am going to do what I have to do."

And it is that attitude that he takes on the practice field. While he admits he is but a rookie, it is tough for him to contain the excitement he has brewing inside.

So what does he do to tap into that energy?

He sings of course. Everything and anything. Last year it was Marcellus Wiley who would belt out tunes from the practice field. This year it could be Ken Veal busting out a lyric or two.

The Isley Brothers, Prince and Luther Vandross are amongst his favorite artists. And in training camp we are expecting his comfort level to be at a point where he will lead the chorus.

"Maybe a little bit," a laughing Veal says. "I might be a little shy. I don't know who would want to hear my singing or not. I know towards the season I am probably going to be loud."

Who is going to tell the 305 pound tackle to stop singing Purple Rain?

While he has a definitive love for music, it is the game that really powers his drive. There will be no Wiley;s in this bunch where a music career and how he looks on camera is more important.

Veal is out to make the San Diego Chargers football squad. It is an attribute he says he learned from his days at Georgia.

"We had this fight mentality that we are going to keep fighting and do what we have to do," Veal said with determination. "Hard work and rehab is not out of place, I can do that."

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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