A discussion with Dominic Oliver who will be suiting up for the San Diego State Aztecs football team this season.
Walter Payton, the man they called “Sweetness,” is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time.
But his lasting legacy extends far beyond the gridiron.
He was the ultimate humanitarian. It was no wonder that after his passing in 1999, the NFL renamed its Man of the Year Award after him. The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is presented annually to an NFL player for their volunteer and charity work off the field as well as their excellence on it.
Dominic Oliver, a 6’3” 230lbs defensive end/outside linebacker from San Jose, CA, and a member of SDSU’s 2021 signing class has his eyes set on winning that award.
When I go to the NFL, I’m going to win the “Walter Payton man of the Year Award.” What good is it for me to accomplish my dreams if I don’t inspire and provide others with the opportunity to do the same.
— Dominic Oliver (@DominicOliver24) December 9, 2020
Oliver told the East Village Times when he heard about the award a few years ago, he knew right away he wanted to win it.
“My whole reason for wanting to go to the NFL is to take care of my family financially first off and then give back to the community and provide opportunities for kids who wouldn’t have the opportunity any other way. I know that the reason I’m where I’m at is because of God’s favor over my life and for the people he has put into my life over time. I want to be that person for others when I make it to the league,” Oliver said.
Oliver, a 3-star rated athlete and ranked 98th on Rivals’ top 100 recruits in California, was heavily recruited on the West Coast after a spectacular junior season at Valley Christian High School in which he collected 62 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, four pass deflections, and two fumble recoveries.
He received at least 15 scholarship offers, nearly half of which were from Mountain West schools. Arizona and Kansas, two Power 5 conference schools, also courted Oliver for his services. He committed to SDSU on August 9, 2020, via tweet and officially signed his National Letter of Intent on December 16, 2020.
Oliver says his decision came down to these final schools: Arizona, Kansas, SDSU, and SJSU (his hometown school). He chose SDSU for the same reasons a lot of other recent Aztec signings did, the genuine and authentic connection he built with the coaching staff.
One step closer to the dream! Committed👑 pic.twitter.com/D7qASOBrQl
— Dominic Oliver (@DominicOliver24) August 10, 2020
He specifically highlighted coaches Kurt Mattix (defensive coordinator) and Doug Deakin (special teams) because “with them, it was bigger than football, my family and I knew that they care about me as a young man not just as another recruit…ultimately, it was just the place I felt like my family and God wanted me to be,” Oliver told EVT.
— San Diego State Football (@AztecFB) December 16, 2020
While some high school seniors who had already committed to their school of choice may have taken time off or relaxed their training when the pandemic shut down the fall high school season, Oliver instead took his workouts to the next level.
After weighing 190 pounds in his junior season and believing he needed to become more complete as a pass rusher, he trained hard in 2020 and ended up not only adding 40 pounds of muscle but speed and quickness to his pass rush.
When the school district was able to salvage a condensed spring season, Oliver’s offseason training showed its worth.
Oliver put up monstrous numbers in only four games. He led his team with 36 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks. His 10.5 tackles for loss led the Central Coast Section and earned him the #8 ranking on WestCoastPreps.com’s Bay Area Postseason Top 45 Player Rankings for the 2021 spring season.
In addition to Oliver’s lofty NFL goals, he also has some plans for his time with the Aztecs. Heading into his career at SDSU, Oliver has made it no secret that he wishes to break the all-time sack record at SDSU, held by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila at 34 sacks.
Oliver says he told the coaches early in his recruitment that he wanted to break KGB’s mark, and all of them have been very supportive of his aspiration. He understands that he is stepping onto a team with a deep and talented front 6, and he will need to work extremely hard to learn from the juniors and seniors on the team, but it is important to set “big, but attainable goals” for himself.
While Oliver played defensive end in high school, the transition to outside linebacker in SDSU’s 3-3-5 defense should not be too drastic for him since his high school team had him “standing up and rushing off the edge in pass-rush situations” frequently. He is aware he will be asked to play more coverage in college and has focused on improving that aspect of his game in the past year,” Oliver said.
Oliver says he studies film and has taken moves from Von Miller, Josh Allen, Chase Young, and Lawrence Taylor to add to his repertoire. The first three names on that list are unsurprising as all are current, high-profile NFL defensive ends/outside linebackers. The fourth name on that list is somewhat surprising, though. While Taylor (famously known as LT) is arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history, he last played a game ten years before Oliver was born. Most players Oliver’s age probably have never heard of Taylor, let alone studied his tape and learned his moves. This dedication and persistence should propel Oliver to reach his potential at SDSU and beyond.
In addition to football, Oliver also played baseball in high school. According to Oliver, he might have been a better baseball than football player at one point, “but my passion has always been football.” In a different world, this profile would be about the next great Aztec pitcher getting ready to play for coach Mark Martinez with the goal of topping Stephen Strasburg’s school record of 375 career strikeouts.
One thing that has remained constant for Oliver throughout his life has been his faith. “I work extremely hard, but at the end of the day, I know that the reason I’m at where I am today is because of Him,” Oliver said. Despite his growing confidence and numerous successes on the football field, his faith has kept him grounded and humble as he approaches the next chapter in his journey.
Walter Payton wrote in his autobiography, Never Die Easy, “If you ask me how I want to be remembered, it is as a winner. You know what a winner is? A winner is somebody who has given his best effort, who has tried the hardest they possibly can, who has utilized every ounce of energy and strength within them to accomplish something. It doesn’t mean that they accomplished it or failed. It means that they’ve given it their best. That’s a winner.”
With the effort he has displayed preparing for his opportunity next season at SDSU, Oliver is already a winner. If he is able to realize his full potential and reach his goals while keeping his priorities off the field, Oliver may someday be in line to win the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.