Ex-Eagle Vincent a man with a plan

Posted: March 21, 2014

WHEN YOU cover any group of professional athletes for an extended amount of time, you get a sense of which ones are only living in the moment and which ones always have the gears turning in their heads with a look to the future.

Former Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent was one of those guys you always knew had a well-designed plan for what was going to be next after his playing career ended.

In a lot of ways, you had the sense that he might have a bigger impact on the NFL in his postplaying days than he did while he was becoming a five-time Pro Bowl player.

So I don't think it came as a surprise to many people yesterday when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Vincent, who played 15 seasons, had been named NFL executive vice president of football operations.

It just seems like a natural flow in the evolution line that has taken Vincent from All-Pro player to league executive.

In his new position, Vincent, who starred in Philadelphia from 1996-2003 and was named to the Eagles' 75th Anniversary Team, will oversee all aspects of football operations in the league office, focusing on quality and innovation.

Vincent will have responsibilities that will include officiating, on-field discipline and NFL relations with colleges. He will have a non-voting spot on the competition committee.

"I am excited and grateful for this opportunity," said Vincent, the 2002 winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. "We will emphasize clarity, consistency and credibility to ensure the highest standards and best practices for our teams and fans.

"We will work closely with all stakeholders to preserve, innovate and develop the game. This is about making a great game even better for our generation and future generations."

During his time in Philadelphia, Vincent was one of those players you knew was charting his life beyond the limited time of a playing career. In 2012, I wrote about Vincent's work as vice president of the NFL's Player Engagement Organization, which is designed to help players plan their lives before, during and after their careers.

Vincent relayed something that Barry Alvarez, his coach at the University of Wisconsin, told him when he was an All-America player who would be drafted seventh overall in 1992 by the Miami Dolphins.

"Coach Alvarez would take me aside and say, 'This is not a career, young man, You don't make playing the game a career - coaching, yes; playing no," Vincent said.

"So even when I was drafted and had some kind of security, it was about what that life is going to look like when I am done."

Vincent was president of the NFL Players Association from 2004-2008, and many thought he was poised to succeed the late Gene Upshaw as executive director in 2009. Vincent was one of two finalists to replace Upshaw when the NFLPA hired outside legal counsel to investigate allegations from anonymous sources that in 2007 Vincent had essentially betrayed the organization by releasing privileged information for his own business gains. Further detailed investigations found no evidence to support that contention, but it cost him his career with the NFLPA.

Having his reputation besmirched was a gut-wrenching experience for the only NFL player to receive the Payton, NFLPA Byron "Whizzer" White, Sporting News #1 Good Guy, and Athletes in Action Bart Starr awards for his community service endeavors.

"I literally went from being a hero to becoming a zero," Vincent said 2 1/2 years ago. "I gave 12 years of my life to an organization that totally kind of just put me out on the street.

"It wasn't easy. It tested my faith."

But Vincent has always faced tough times with the adage that whatever doesn't destroy you only makes you stronger.

Vincent joined the NFL league office in 2010 as a vice president and has steadily earned the reputation as a valuable executive.

The successful expansion of the scope of the league's support programs for current and former players and their families that he initiated got him promoted to a senior vice president position in 2013.

During his tenure with the Engagement Organization, Vincent brought in more than 200 former NFL players as ambassadors to help operate the department's programs.

His combined 22 years of service as a player, NFLPA executive and NFL executive make Vincent well-qualified for a position that will have tremendous impact on the way the NFL operates moving into the future.

"Troy Vincent brings a uniquely well-rounded perspective to this leadership position," Goodell said. "He knows the game inside out from the locker room to the board room.

"He has done an exceptional job growing services to our players and former players, and he is ready and eager to lead our football operations group.

"Troy's passion for education, personal development and innovation will bring a new vitality and vision to our football group."

Somehow, you just knew that Vincent was the type of person who would.

Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

comments powered by Disqus