I caught up with defensive tackle Vita Vea before the start of the 2019 season to talk everything from the differences at the NFL level to his first sport and getting ‘put on game’ in the Bay Area where he’s from. We also talked about his love for the University of Washington where he played, right in time for the Bucs to take on the Seahawks in Seattle.
This is Behind the Buccaneers with Vita Vea…
Is there something that’s surprised you so far after being in the league?
I feel like just the growth. I feel like there’s a bigger growth in me. After just playing one season and going into the offseason and knowing what to expect now and know what I’m working towards. I know the things that I have to bring to the table to help the team out. Knowing those things and just working at it. I feel like as a rookie, you just come in and you don’t really know what to expect because I feel like you just go based off what you did in college. I feel like it has its similarities but it’s a lot different. One main difference is the age difference in the team. There are some guys that are a lot older than you.
Yeah, they’ve got families, responsibilities.
Yeah, I feel like that’s different than in college where everybody lives together and stuff like that. You come here and it’s a whole different world, people older than you, stuff like that.
You realize this is your job now, it’s your livelihood.
It’s your job now. College, you still have to focus on school. Over here, knowing the playbook is basically like you going to class. I feel like that’s the main difference.
I mean, you still have that here because I feel like people don’t really understand how much you guys study and how much you guys spend in the classroom.
We’re here, especially as the year progresses, you spend more time on football. Not only playbooks, but also working out, cardio, recovery. Recovery is the main thing. You have to find throughout the day and throughout the week to have those taken care of. Get your priorities straight and that’s up to you.
No one’s telling you when to do that.
Yeah, you have your freedom to do it but it’s your priority to do it. Make sure you’re on top of everything.
It sounds more serious at this level.
A lot more serious.
But you’re not so serious – I hear that you like to play a lot of jokes. And pranks.
I like to have fun. I feel like it would be a waste if you were out here all serious all the time. There’s a time and place for it and that’s something I’ve learned over time – knowing when to play around and when to work and times to be serious. But the majority of the time, I just like to have fun.
Have you played any pranks on certain teammates?
Here? I didn’t do too many pranks here. I just do small jokes. I feel like in our D-line group, we like to make fun of each other so I guess just doing that, giving each other a hard time. But we all laugh. It’s no hard feelings, everyone knows we’re playing around.
It sounds like you guys are a little family on the D-line.
What about your family at home? How many brothers and sisters do you have?
I only have one brother and one sister.
When did football start for you? Do they play sports, too?
I followed my brother into football. He played first. My mom only let him play football. I was the youngest so I didn’t really have that freedom. She was too scared to let me play. Then when
I did play, I was too big to play in my class. So I was fifth grade playing with the eighth graders and high schoolers. But I didn’t play though because everyone was older than me and I hadn’t developed and matured and they had been playing for a while. I didn’t really understand it like they did so I didn’t play much. I did that for two years and then middle school, I stopped playing pop warner. Just went to school. I got into basketball because I was taller than everybody. That’s what I played. I didn’t really get big until after high school. The closest thing I got to football was flag football in middle school. That was fun. They were letting me play tight end and running back.
Do you have any of that in your background because I feel like you’re so agile.
I feel like part of it is genetics. My mom’s side, all of her family are into sports. They all play rugby. My dad played soccer, so he was the quick feet guy. But then at a young age, I started to play tennis. My first sport was tennis.
I’ve heard that! I’ve heard people say listen, if you want your kid to be a good athlete, start them in tennis.
That’s what it was. I started off in tennis and I played for eight years.
Yeah, it was a program where we grew up in our neighborhood. Our parents were working nonstop so it was an afterschool program. They did tutoring. You go over there and they’d give you tutoring, they’ll feed you and then you get to play tennis. For young kids, you just go out there and they teach you the fundamentals. As you grow older, you start competing against each other and then in the summertime you start competing in tournaments. Some were better than others.
Were you good?
I was all right. I was good, I was good. But I never really took it serious because I knew I wasn’t going to go far in tennis. I knew it was just a temporary thing because my parents had to work so I knew I had to be there. But now I look back at it and it was really helpful because it helps a lot with agility, hand-eye coordination, acceleration, being explosive. Especially playing singles. Doubles not as much but when you’re playing singles, you have the whole court to run around and hit the ball, then they hit the ball back and you have to hit it back.
Do you still pick up a tennis racket every now and again?
I haven’t in a while but I feel like playing it for eight years, it’s just like riding a bike for me now.
So what else do you do for fun then away from the field? What’s your happy place?
I feel like my happy place is just being on the water or just being with friends and family. Since we’ve been back, I feel like it’s been really cool just hanging out with the D-line. When we have time off, we just all link up and have a good time.
What do you guys do when you hang out?
We do a lot of stuff. We’ve picked up a lot of hobbies.
The main hobby we’re into right now is fishing.
Everyone in Florida fishes!
We fish. You’ll see there’s bumps all over my arm because we went to this place, I think it’s called Upper Tampa Bay Park and they have these canoes you can rent out. We just took our fishing poles on there. And you couldn’t see these mosquitos, that was the thing. Beau told us that they’re called – this what Beau said – don’t quote me, this is Beau. He said those mosquitos are called ‘can’t see ‘em.’
That’s what they’re called. I’m telling you. You can’t see them, so they’re called ‘can’t see ‘ems’.
How different is Florida then? Because you grew up in California.
Shoot. The humidity and the heat. That’s the biggest thing. I grew up in Northern California so it wasn’t as sunny. If you go to California for weather, you go to San Diego or LA. Everyone comes to Northern California to network. Everything is in the Bay Area.
Are you all ‘Yay Area’ as far as music goes?
That’s what I grew up on. E-40, Mac Dre, who else? There’s a lot of them. There’s an up and coming artists, Kamaiya, Keak Da Sneak. The Governor. You heard The Governor?
Damnnn. There’s an up and coming dude named Stunna June. He’s a Tongan guy. He’s representing for the culture. There’s a lot of them. There’s Cookie Money. BRBE. You’ve probably heard of them.
It’s this whole microcosm of rap. It’s its own little world.
Tupac said it the best. The Bay Area got their own little style. We have our own little style of music. It’s different. That’s the biggest thing. I feel like people come to the Bay Area to network. People come to the Bay Area to get put on game with their business or whatever they’re seeking. Whatever they’re looking for, it’s in the Bay Area. That’s where it’s at. People don’t come to the Bay Area for weather. It’s probably raining over there right now to be honest. It’s very similar to Seattle, because that’s where I went to college. There’s similarities but Seattle, it doesn’t rain as much. It sprinkles. It’s beautiful in Seattle.
You guys and Autzen (in Oregon) were the toughest places to play. And Pullman, that was a tough place to play for our guys - I went to Arizona State.
U-Dub is top of the line of the Pac-12. We’re on the water. People come sail gate. How many stadiums can you say that you went to and were sailgating? They say U-Dub is the best setting in college football…