For so many, LSU’s loss to Troy last September was just that — one singular loss.
It was one mark in the "L" column — a stunning loss, yes, but a result that still counted the same as any other defeat: One.
For Kary Vincent, it was different. He lost two things: the game and his starting spot.
“At first I was confused,” said Vincent, a freshman defensive back from Port Arthur, Texas. “I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t angry. I was very angry. But I’m really thankful for it. I understand it and appreciate the coaches for what they did. It made me a better football player.”
Vincent’s first season at LSU peaked early. He started three of his first four games, made all of his nine tackles last season before October and snatched a one-handed interception in Game 2. He was riding high, an 18-year-old starring as the primary nickel cornerback for, of all places, a Southeastern Conference program recognized as annually having the nation’s top DBs.
His pick against UT-Chattanooga even crossed off a career goal five quarters into said career — landing on "SportsCenter" as a top play.
So, what happened? How is it that he 1) never started again, 2) did not make another tackle, let alone an interception, and 3) completely missed games against Alabama and the bowl against Notre Dame?
The reason — “complacency,” he says — isn’t as important as the motivation it has given him in a completely different sport. A Texas high school sprinting champion, Vincent has joined the LSU track team, juggling both sports like so many before him.
The list includes Eddie Kennison, Xavier Carter, Trindon Holliday and Bennie Brazell, the latter in his eighth year as an LSU track assistant.
On an unseasonably warm Tuesday afternoon, Brazell welcomed Vincent to track practice with a smile and joke ahead of the player’s interview with a reporter.
“Talk good about me!” a laughing Brazell told Vincent.
This is a big week in the world of indoor track-and-field. Conference championships unfold this weekend.
Vincent will participate in the 60-meter dash preliminaries at the SEC championships in College Station, Texas, on Saturday (3:20 p.m., SEC Network+), with a chance to advance to Sunday’s finals (5:11 p.m., SEC Network). He’s also hoping to post a good enough time to squeeze into the top 16 nationally. Those sprinters compete in the NCAA championships March 9-10, the final indoor meet before the outdoor season starts a week later.
He’s got time to make up. Vincent’s best time this year — in his only race — is 6.74 seconds. That ranks 65th nationally, about a tenth of a second behind the current qualifying time (6.63). An outdoor runner who starred in high school at the 100- and 200-meter events, Vincent is new to running a 60-meter dash and new to performing any event on a hard indoor track.
He has only practiced with the track team for about a month.
“To run that with (that little) of the work he did, we can’t get our best sprinters to do that,” Brazell said. “He’s really special. His future is really bright.”
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The real focus, Shaver said, is preparing the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder for the outdoor season. Vincent will alternate between the sports once spring football practice begins March 11, something he has planned since high school. After all, he was not only ranked as high a the No. 2 cornerback in the 2017 signing class — he was the top-ranked prep 200-meter sprinter.
Already, his schedule in February is loaded. He starts his weekday with a football weightlifting session (7:30-9 a.m.) before three hours of classes and a short lunch. He arrives to the track at 1 p.m. for treatment, sprints through an hour-long track practice before crossing back over Nicholson Drive to the football operations facility for meetings and a walkthrough from 4 p.m.-5:45 p.m.
Brazell went through this himself — a “difficult task,” he says. Former LSU cornerback Donte Jackson is living proof. In 2016, Jackson’s two-sport spring ended in March because of academic missteps.
“It’s really hard to find that person who wants to do both. It’s not easy,” Shaver said. “But I’ll be honest: Every year we’ve ever won an NCAA championship in track on the men’s side, we couldn’t have won it without the football players.”
Maybe Vincent is the next in that line of dual-sport champions, but he’s not the only two-sport guy on this year’s track team. Fellow football freshman Mannie Netherly, a receiver last year who is moving to cornerback, will compete in the outdoor season.
Track is up Vincent's alley. Speed is in his genes. His father, Kary Vincent Sr., played receiver for Texas A&M and was drafted in the sixth round by the Saints. The younger Vincent claims to have never lost a race since his junior season in high school. It’s a reason LSU coaches began the season with him as their starting nickel cornerback last year.
This season, the starting corner spot opposite Greedy Williams and the nickel position are up for grabs among Vincent, incoming signee Kelvin Joseph, sophomore Jontre Kirklin, Netherly and potentially Kristian Fulton.
Nickel is a position of importance this season. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda expects to play more of the 2-4-5 package in 2018, he said in an interview earlier this month. That means finding a solid and consistent nickel, something he couldn’t last season.
Vincent speaks like a player who knows he’s got an edge there.
“Coach O is expecting me to fill a big cornerback position, but once it comes to the nickel, I’ll always fill in,” Vincent said. “I’m looking to pick up where I ended up last year. I’ll be back in those blitzing packages, covering those guys in the slot.”
He held that job last season for a month before Jackson replaced him at nickel. It is something Brazell has not allowed him to forget.
“If you were really good enough, if you were that good, you would have kept playing,” Brazell tells his sprinter.
“I’m one of those coaches that’s straight up with him,” Brazell said. “I stay on him. I’m not going to BS him.”
Neither does Corey Raymond, Vincent said. The LSU cornerbacks coach delivered him a message after trimming his playing time during the Troy game: “Get back on your game. You came in here hot and died down a little because you thought you just had it made.”
The lack of reps sparked the player, Vincent said, and now it’s bleeding over across the street to the track.
“I had big goals for myself last year on the football field. I had things I wanted to accomplish, that I could have accomplished had I kept my mindset right,” Vincent said, “but I’m carrying it over to the track. I plan to be a freshman All-American and lead this team to some titles.”
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