If the Twitter chatter from DC Nick Howell and Recruiting Coordinator Geoff Martzen means much, then this week's commit DB Khari Vanderbilt is a player that BYU fans should know a little more about. I spoke with Vanderbilt Wednesday night to find out more about him, why he chose BYU, what he expects from himself, and what fans can expect from him.
PG: I know Nick Howell was working with you through the (recruiting) process, how is your relationship with him?
KV: Pretty good. He was the one who came out to San Jose City to recruit me. First it was a Coach Kaufusi. He came by to take a look at the players and talk to the coach. He had seen me in the office talking to my coach and I am guessing he liked my size and how tall I was for a DB and then he had Coach Nick Howell come out about a week later. And then ever since then me and Coach Nick Howell have been keeping in touch and he told me that he wanted to fly me out there on an unofficial and then that's how everything got started. Coach Nick Howell is a pretty good guy. He's real down to earth.
PG: You mentioned Coach Kaufusi, are there any other coaches that you have had a chance to meet with?
KV: Yah. I met Coach Mendenhall, the DB assistant coach, I met Coach Kaufusi, I met their whole coaching staff.
PG: What helped you decide to commit to BYU?
KV: One of my friends is playing out there, Robertson Daniel. He just played the previous season and his DB coach is my DB coach right now. That's really what helped me come to my decision because my DB coach had a connection to BYU before so coming into my junior college at San Jose City that was one of the main schools that I was always interested in because it was the school that my DB coach would always talk about and he had got me in contact with Robertson. Robertson was helping me before my freshman season at San Jose City and he watched me do things like how I should play and how I should come up and fill the alley and what my stats should look like. I mean, there is no better place to play at than with your friends so that played a big part in my decision.
PG: Do you know anybody else on the team yet?
KV: I met a couple guys. I met the other safety. I think his name is a B, I don't remember his name but I think he might be the starting strong safety this year. I met one of the receivers, it's gonna be his first year at BYU, he just came from a junior college. I met a couple of the corners, I can't remember their names, I just remember their faces but I was hanging out with a lot of their players.
PG: How do expect to contribute to the team?
KV: Playing a big part of the defense, a big role in the defense. They want me at strong safety or free safety type of player. So I'm looking to contribute. When I play I like playing "No Fly Zone." If I'm not coming down with the ball than neither is the receiver. So I wanna bring energy to the defense. I wanna bring a lot of chemistry to the defense. I wanna bring a lot of tempo. I want people to look at our defense and be worried about us on the field.
PG: Obviously you like BYU, since you committed, but what are your impressions of BYU after your unofficial visit?
KV: It's a really good school. They have the Honor Code which a lot of players wouldn't be able to adjust to, but I kind of like the Honor Code because it builds your character, it builds you as a person, it builds just a football player, just an overall person. And the education up there is probably one of the best schools to have on a resume. So if someone sees that you graduated from BYU with a degree, I think that is the biggest chance of you getting hired on at a big company or business. That is what I like too, because football; you're not going to be able to play football forever. So having a degree is important and having BYU on my degree will help me out a lot further down the line.
PG: You mentioned the Honor Code there, I just wondered if you could tell me a little bit more what you think about that.
KV: I like it a lot because at other colleges they allow you, um, I mean they don't prefer you to do it but you don't get into as much trouble if you do it, like drinking, at some colleges some players will be smoking and having sex, partying on weekends, and finding out where the party's at. At BYU they don't really allow that. You can't drink. You can't smoke. You can't have sex. They pretty much just want you to focus on what you came there to do which is to get a job and get done with school, get your degree, play football. It's pretty much a business trip. It's not time to smoke and drink and mess around with all the girls and stuff and I like that.
PG: Since you've already committed, do you still plan to make an official visit to BYU this fall?
KV: Me and Coach Howell are gonna talk soon and I'm gonna see what my schedule looks like and see where my bye week is and I'm gonna fly back up there on a game week. I'm gonna go with a couple of my family members and I'm gonna watch them play against whatever team it is on my bye week.
PG: What do you think that BYU, both the school and the football program, offer you?
KV: They offer me a good chance of exposure because I think most of the games, I mean all of them are on TV, which helps me with exposure. If I go up there, the 2015 schedule we have the first four or five games are against ranked teams. There's no better way to get exposure and to get yourself out there than to play against the best. The school is like one of the best schools. It's pretty much like another Stanford. They expect a lot out of you up there and they push you, but it's only going to make you better as a person, better in your character, and I like that about the school a lot.
PG: What are you looking forward to most at BYU?
KV: I'm looking forward to playing with a good group of guys; a good group of DBs. Having fun. You only get to go to a division college once and play on a Division-I team once, so I'm gonna make this the best; take every chance and every opportunity I have to make it a fun experience. And also, hopefully get a chance to go on to the next level and play in the NFL, and also get my degree in business or journalism.
PG: When are you looking to join the team?
KV: Hopefully if things work out I can become a mid-year player but if not then I will be up there around May or June. But I'm trying to get up there in early January of 2015.
PG: How does BYU fit into your long-term plans?
KV: Like I said, they are one of the best colleges out there so having BYU on my degree will make it a lot easier for me to apply at the big name jobs. I want to be a sports journalist. If I apply at ESPN for sports journalism they are gonna see I that have BYU on my resume and that helps a lot. If they see another kid apply at the same time as me and he's at Stanford and I'm at BYU, my chances for the job are a lot better because they know at BYU that they have a higher standard for the students there for character and how they act. They pretty much have an image to uphold.
PG: Your friend Thaddeus Philyaw at De Anza College is also being recruited by BYU, any chance you bring him with you to Provo next fall?
KV: I'm excited. If I can get him out there to Provo with me then that's probably going to be the best thing. I grew up with him. I've known him since I was eight. We've been playing against each other since Pop Warner every year to high school and we are still playing against each other in college. So hopefully when we go to the next level we will be able to play with each other this time because our chemistry is always there and he knows my every step and I know his every step. So if he's at corner and I'm at safety on the same side of the field, there's no receiver who's gonna catch a ball on us. We're just a perfect tandem. It's like Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman, no ones gonna catch a ball on them and no ones gonna catch a ball on us if I get him up there with me.
PG: Nick Howell and Geoff Martzen, the Recruiting Coordinator, they've been hyping your class up on Twitter with #2015thechosenones and #noflyzone, what do you think about that?
KV: I like that a lot. That means they have a lot of openness, which means this '15 class they are expecting a lot out of us, and I like that. They are setting the bar high for us so we gotta meet the expectation. I hope all the other DBs see that that are committed to BYU. We wanna go out there and compete with each other, we wanna get the starting position and compete with the team and show them why we are the chosen ones for 2015 and No Fly Zone.
PG: What does your family think about your commitment to play for BYU?
KV: They love it. They wanted me to choose BYU over any other college. I recently got mail from USC, it was just an invite to a camp, and my mom had hid it from me. She hid it from me and was like you only got mail from BYU. I lifted up the mail, from like bills and stuff, and I seen the USC one. She was like, "Oh, you found it." They were trying to hide it, so they are pretty happy I chose BYU. My mom was smiling when she heard that they offered me. She was standing right next to me when they offered and she was ecstatic. My pastor's really big on it because he's a pastor at a church, so being at BYU just made him even happier.
PG: What is it your mom likes so much about BYU?
KV: Sometimes there are a lot of distractions out here with school, football, and there's a lot of drama that happens around my neighborhood where I'm at. So she's happy that I'm able to get out of here and go to a big school and go to a college. 'Cause a lot of people growing up told me that I wouldn't be able to do that. So she's just happy that I can show them wrong.
PG: I know your younger brother plays wide receiver, should BYU fans be keeping an eye on him as well?
KV: Yah. All the coaches seen a little bit of highlights because I was showing them clips of him. They said they really liked him. They said hopefully by his freshman year they'll probably start looking at him and by sophomore year, junior year, they'll try and start talking to him. Hopefully be able to have him up there next. Coach Mendenhall was talking to my little brother when they offered me and saying that in a couple years hopefully they can get him up in Provo too.