By Chris Parker & Taylor Kauffman
Parkview senior defensive end Ja’Veo Toliver stood in the shadows of senior offensive stars like Blake Delacruz and Jevin Huddleston last year.
This year, the 6-foot-5, 255-pound defensive wrecking ball will be the one casting the shadow. Last year, Toliver tallied 75 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, five sacks and seven pass knockdowns while playing every defensive snap.
Those numbers and a strong camp performance were enough to catch the eye of Missouri State head football coach Dave Steckel, who extended Toliver his first college offer earlier this summer.
“At first I was in awe. I didn’t know how to react to it. Coach (Ben) Dougherty and I were off to the side and heard Coach Stec. I just froze up a bit. It is a big blessing and I am glad to have it,” Toliver said.
Toliver has flown a bit under the radar because he missed his sophomore season with a torn ACL sustained during basketball season, but the potential has been there since he walked onto campus as a freshman.
“He was probably 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3 as a freshman. Any time you see size from a young kid like that coaches instantly start dreaming up the possibilities of what he could do. He has got the work ethic and leadership to go along with that too. He has really put it all together these last few years as a leader; working hard in the weight room and classroom. He has turned himself into not just a great player but an excellent young man,” Parkview coach Ben Dougherty said.
Toliver has grown three inches and put on 35 pounds since his freshman season.
This year Parkview will be looking for leadership from Toliver on the field and in the huddle, as the Vikings will return just three players that saw starting time on defense.
“He not only is a leader by example, but he is our most vocal leader as well. That is kind of a rare thing to have at the high school level when you have somebody that is willing not only lead by example but put their voice behind it. He does a great job of communicating what our expectations are to the team from the coaches. He know what we want from him and everybody else. He makes sure that gets done on the field,” Dougherty said.
Toliver’s greatest attribute may be his fire and love for the game of football.
“Sometimes I think of it as too much fun. You can never get enough of it. It is kind of like an addiction. The minute you first step on the field you get into a different mind-state and love every moment of it,” Toliver said.
It is a fire that fans will notice from the stands according to Dougherty.
“They (fans) should expect to see someone that is fired up to play football. That is the number one thing that I love about him is that he loves to play football,” Dougherty said.
So far Toliver’s only offer is from Missouri State right now, but more are expected over the course of the fall.