Overview: Hakeem Valles was a senior who played tight end for Monmouth University. He started off his football career playing wide receiver before making the transition to the tight end position. In 2014, he had the 4th highest receiving yards with 255 yards. In 2015, he was named team captain and he also earned All-Big South Conference 2nd team. He has great hands, runs routes well, and is a good red zone target.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Hakeem, during which time he told me more about his background, his personality and his overall love for football.
Christa: For the people who do not know your story, how did you wind up choosing Monmouth University?
HV: After attending their summer recruiting camp, Monmouth, believe it or not, was the only scholarship that I had and the only school that had faith in me coming out of High School.
C: How do you plan on making yourself stand out and noticed by scouts?
HV: I feel that my 40 time is what is really going to help me stand out and be noticed by scouts. I ran a 4.63 at the regional combine in New Orleans which is faster than any TE at the NFL Combine Indianapolis. My pro day is coming up on April 6th and I believe that can run an even faster time than that and that will really open their eyes.
C: What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
HV: I believe that my strengths are my strong hands, my ability to get in and out of routes and my aggressiveness at the point of attack. My weakness is that at times in the blocking game I strike with my head first.
C: What separates you from the other players at your position?
HV: What separates me from other players at my position is the fact that I used to be a receiver. Route running is second nature to me. My ability to always be in a possible “mismatch” situation at any time on the field is what also separates me from other players at my position.
C: Which current or former NFL player do you think you resemble and why?
HV: Coby Fleener. I think we have similar body frames, and I believe I am great route runner and a fluid athlete like him.
C: What was it like converting from being a wide receiver to playing tight end?
HV: Converting from receiver to tight end was a great experience for me. I was playing behind current Jacksonville Jaguar Neal Sterling and at the time we had some injuries at the Tight End position. My mentor, Thaddeus Richards who was a receiver on the team at the time helped talked me through the process, and 9 days into camp 2 years ago I made the switch. I put on a little over 30 pounds throughout the season. The hardest part of the conversion was definitely the blocking. The best part about the conversion was seeing how I could create different mismatches with my size and speed.
C: Who is the toughest player you’ve ever faced in your college career?
HV: Chima Uzowihe From Liberty University. Always was a battle when we faced each other.
C: How do you prepare for game day? Do you have any game day rituals?
HV: I do not believe in superstitions. I just listen to music and lock in and focus.
C: What is the most inspirational or powerful thing a coach has ever said to you in your college career?
HV: My Tight end coach Jeff Gallo pulled me aside after my first year being a tight end and told me that I have what it takes to be an NFL tight end, but I had to be willing to bust my tail all summer and work for. He said it’s going to be the hardest summer I ever would have (it was). He told me that we were going to have to perfect the imperfections in order to make this thing work. I’ll never forget those words.
C: What was your favorite moment/play at Monmouth University?
HV: My favorite play/moment was a double reverse pass against Liberty thrown on the money from one of my best friends and current receiver Matt Choi for a 65 yard wide open touchdown for me on the second play of the game. Although we lost that game on a close nail-biter, that will be one of the most memorable plays of my career.
Locker Room Update would like to thank Hakeem Valles for taking the time to speak with us. We wish him the best of luck as he continues his journey as an NFL 2016 draft prospect.
Follow him on Twitter: @HakValles80