Westlake’s Victory Vaka knows the recruiting game will be worth the wait

Westlake defensive tackle Victory Vaka is drawing attention from national programs before entering his junior year.
Westlake defensive tackle Victory Vaka is drawing attention from national programs before entering his junior year.
(Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

Victory Vaka describes the college football programs that are recruiting him the hardest as having “heavy interest” in him. It’s an apropos choice of words from the 6-foot-3, 320-pound defensive tackle, who slimmed down 20 pounds his sophomore year.

The Westlake High rising junior has drawn attention from several schools and already has eight scholarship offers. Vaka moves like a defensive end with the bully mentality of a defensive tackle. He’s big enough to command double teams and combination blocks from opposing offensive linemen, but nimble enough to slice through to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.

Vaka is coming off a season in which he made 43 tackles in eight games, including 14 in a win over Mission Hills. His season highlight tape features him making several tackles for a loss.

He has drawn attention from schools all over the nation and has plans this weekend to visit his three “dream schools” — Georgia, Clemson and Louisiana State.

Belmont High in downtown L.A. was once a campus of 5,500 students but as enrollment decreased fielding a football team became a challenge, similar to many schools in the City Section.

“I just want to go out there, down to the South and SEC, that’s probably the best football that you can possibly play in the country,” Vaka said. “LSU I already visited back in January, but they wanted me to come out and get a more detailed, more private unofficial visit because they’re heavily interested in me and I’m heavily interested in them as well.

“And Georgia, they’re heavily interested in me as well. Me and the d-line coach, coach [Tray] Scott, already have a great relationship going. You know, he’s not really supposed to text with me that often, but he texts me every now and then. I can text him and then he can text me.”


NCAA rules govern the amount and kind of contact schools can have with prospective players. That makes the unofficial visits Vaka is taking this summer even more important since traveling cross-country isn’t an everyday occurrence.

All three of Vaka’s dream schools have a common denominator.

“They produce some of the best defensive linemen prospects and send them out to the NFL,” Vaka said. “I want them to produce me just like [NFL players] Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley.”

Local schools in the mix

Neither USC nor UCLA is among the schools that have offered Vaka a scholarship, but both schools have “shown heavy interest.”

“They haven’t offered yet, but I’m at the top of their list. That’s what they’re telling me,” Vaka said. “They are hometown schools. My friends and family can drive 30, 45 minutes where I am and go catch a game.”

The inside man

Arizona State is another school that has been recruiting Vaka hard. The Sun Devils have an advantage because they have an inside man trying to sway Vaka to the desert. Vaka has long been friends with Westlake Village Oaks Christian receiver Alonzo Fontenette, who committed to Arizona State in May.

“Me and him go way back. I love that kid. We tell people like we’re each other’s cousin. That’s just how close we are,” Vaka said. “With Arizona State, I can come in, play as a freshman, get that early playing time. That’s why I’m heavily considering Arizona State and it’s only a six-hour drive.”

Slow-playing the process

Vaka is the top-ranked defensive tackle in California for his recruiting class and the No. 3 defensive lineman in the state. The four-star prospect, per the 247Sports composite rankings, is ranked No. 188 in the nation.

He already has several suitors, vying for hiscommitment, but Vaka doesn’t want to rush into an early decision.

“Just want to take this recruiting process as slow as I can because I want to make the best decision for me and my family,” he said. “It’s not only a four-year decision. It’s a 40-year decision and you only get this recruiting process once in a lifetime, so I’m just soaking things up as of right now.”