Two-time Arkansas state champ taking talents to Vanderbilt

By EFN Staff
Published: 01/27/2015

When you’ve won back-to-back Arkansas state championships in football there is little else left to prove on the high school playing field for a player like Ean Pfeifer. As a three-year starter for the Tigers, the 6’5”, 285 pound, tackle plowed a path forward towards greatness for Bentonville High School helping the team win the 2013 and 2014 titles. Now Pfeifer looks to extend his winning ways to a different SEC team than most would have guessed, Vanderbilt.

Pfeifer and the rest of the Bentonville squad started the 2014 season on a path headed towards missing the playoffs rather than dominating in the playoffs. A tough 17-16 loss to Rockhurst High School (Kansas City, MO) was followed by an embarrassing 34-0 loss to Broken Arrow High School (Broken Arrow, OK). With the team hanging their heads wondering how to right the ship losses to New Jersey’s Bergen Catholic (21-10) and Fort Smith Southside (10-7) only made matters worse. But showing the aptitude of true champions the Tigers bounced back to win their next nine games beating Fayetteville 24-21 for their second consecutive state title.

In an Elite Football Network exclusive interview, Pfeifer sat down for a one-on-one interview discussing the 2014 state championship run, offseason workouts, and gearing up for life in the SEC East as a future member of the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Ean, the Tigers started the season with four losses before reeling off nine-wins in a row. What was the difference between the first four games and the last nine?

“We went 11-2 the previous season and really thought we would be a better team in 2014. When we lost the first four games we started questioning ourselves. Then in the fifth game against Fort Smith Northside we were down 19-7 at halftime. We were looking at a record of 0-5 and potentially missing the playoffs. But something clicked with the team at halftime (winning 29-26).

What clicked for the team after halftime?

“The offensive line started to click – our defense had been playing well already. We were not a complete unit yet on offense. Our run game was not working well. Our quarterback was not connecting with the receivers but then everything else just started to work.”

What are your strengths on the field at right tackle?

“My biggest strength is my run blocking. I get tagged for my pass blocking but I think I am a pretty good pass blocker. Another one of my strengths is my ability to communicate with my teammates on the line pre-snap.”

Watching you play, you get to the next level well and finish off your blocks with aggression is that pretty accurate?

“I’m always trying to get to the next level to take on linebackers. I’m looking for that pancake block. I try to hammer them with all my weight, let them know I am there.”

During one of your games I saw you took out a defender and one of your fellow offensive linemen, does that count as two pancake blocks?

“(Laughing) No, just one. Coach always said if you get a ref pancake that counts as two.”

What are your thoughts on how you played during your senior season?

“I felt like I played really well. The first four games I could have played better. My junior year we had a great offensive line, so I did not have as much responsibility. My senior year I was one of the top lineman so I felt the burden on me when we lost those games. We took it upon ourselves as a team to get better and we did. I feel like I had the best senior season I could have had.”

At what point during your winning streak did the team realize you guys were unstoppable?

“When we beat Fayetteville (45-2) at the end of the regular season we knew we could not be stopped. Coach even told us. You don’t just beat a team like that the way we did by luck.”

When the clock rolled triple-zeros in the state championship game and you had just beaten Fayetteville a second time in four games 24-21, what was that feeling like for you?

“The feeling was even better than the previous state championship. Not many people can say they went back-to-back. Being part of the program my whole four years it felt great.”

You committed to Vanderbilt pretty early (June 15, 2014), what led you to pick the Commodores so early in the recruiting process?

“It’s what the school and program has to offer for me. I really do love football, but I didn’t just want to go to school for football. Vandy offered me the opportunity to get a great education and I get to play in the SEC, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

You have 13 total offers from Division-I schools, any schools taking a late run at you trying to flip you?

“I was getting looked at by other big SEC schools but since my sophomore year I’ve told recruiters I wanted to go to Vanderbilt. I think because I’ve been committed to Vanderbilt for so long the other schools know I’m firmly committed.”

When do you report to Vanderbilt?

“I report the first week of June and start taking summer classes.”

When do you think all of this work that you’ve put into your football career so far, knowing you wanted to play for Vanderbilt since your sophomore year, will finally sink in that you’ve made your dream a reality?

“I don’t know? I guess my first day on campus being around the other commitments realizing that I’ve finally made it. Not many people get to sign with a D-I school, I’m lucky.”

What are you doing now in the offseason to prepare for your summer college workouts?

“I started Jan. 1 training with some other guys going D-I. We train with a strength coach pretty much every day.”

When you get to Vanderbilt what position will you play?

“The coaches have told me I’m kind of a tweener. They’re going to start me out at center but I can move to guard or tackle. I gotta beef up a little bit before I get there.”

Have you ever snapped before?

“No background in snapping in a game. I’ve been practicing snapping throughout high school. Our offensive line coach liked us to be able to play every position so I’ve had some practice snapping.”

What do the Vanderbilt coaches like about your game?

“My new O-line coach at Vandy, Keven Lightner, was telling me he likes my nastiness. Playing in the SEC you need some nastiness, kind of like Arkansas tackle Dan Skipper. He’s nasty.”

You were a Super Sophomore All-Arkansas selection, what other individual honors did you receive during your high school career?

“I was name Second-Team All-Conference as junior. My senior year I was All-State and named to the All-Arkansas Prep First-Team. I was also named the winner of the Willie Roaf Award given to the best offensive lineman in Arkansas.”

Is there a NFL player you like to watch play the game?

“I like watching Trent Williams, the Washington Redskins tackle (Oklahoma Sooners). I hear stories how the guys on his team like him but the opposition hates him because of how nasty he is during the game. I admire that.”

Who has made the biggest impact on your football career?

“My dad (Thomas) has had the biggest impact on me. He’s always been the one to push me. He’s always pushed me into being the best. I appreciate what he’s done for me because it’s gotten me to where I am today.”

What was your most memorable moment on the field playing high school football?

“In state championship game (2014) we ran a tackle screen. I caught it on the 20 and took it down to the 2-yard line. I almost got in!”

What is your favorite part of playing football?

“I really like getting a pancake block. I like putting guys on the ground and forcing them there against their will.”

Big, nasty, smart, and a winner what else could a college coach want in an incoming recruit?

Ean dominated at the highest level within the state of Arkansas producing 48 pancake blocks as a junior and then picked up 50 as a senior. Over the course of both seasons he graded out at 90 percent.

In all 13 schools have offered the prized Bentonville lineman: Arkansas State, Georgia State, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Nevada, North Texas, Southern Miss, San Diego State, Tulsa, Utah State, and Yale. Perhaps more would have come knocking on his door if he had been more open to the recruiting process? But setting goals, being driven to succeed, and backing up those plans with proven success is what Ean Pfeifer is all about, why change what works now?

And who could argue with the thought of a Vanderbilt college education while playing football in the SEC?

Photo credit: nwarkansasonline.com; No. 56 Ean Pfeifer.
Photo credit: varsitypreps.com; No. 56 Ean Pfeifer.