By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Taron Vincent’s surname should be familiar enough to any ardent Eagles’ fan. Yes, he’s Troy’s son. And yes, he’s a heck of a football player—like his father was. But Taron comes in a different package.
It was enough to attract some looks and wide-eyed wonderment each time Taron ran track in middle school. Vincent gradually gained, and then passed each one of the other runners along the curve of the track. The glares also usually came with the question: How could someone that big move that fast?
Vincent was always large for his age. His parents used to carry his birth certificate to validate how old he is. So, when Vincent came barreling around the curve running the third leg of the 4X100 relay his freshman year of high school no one could believe it—especially when he tore by the other runners at 6-foot-2, 285 pounds.
Maybe there is a reason why no one could block him. Maybe it explains why Taron made 60 tackles in nine games his senior year, with 10 tackles for losses and five sacks. Maybe it explains why Vincent finished his career at the prestigious IMG Academy with 172 tackles in two years and 11 sacks.
His quickness, strength, speed, agility and work ethic have forged one of the nation’s best high school defensive tackles and the Maxwell Club’s first-ever National Defensive High School Player of the Year, sponsored by adidas. Taron will be honored at the annual Maxwell Club gala Friday night at the Tropicana in Atlantic City. The event is sold out.
“It’s an honor to be the first one and start it off,” said Vincent, who’s going to Ohio State. “I was honestly shocked when I was told I was selected the Maxwell Club player of the year. This honor is a great way to sum up all of my accomplishments in football. I can’t wait (to go to Atlantic City for the national Maxwell Club dinner on March 9).
“I’m happy to win an award like this. It definitely makes it worth all of the time and hard work.”
And the sacrifice involved.
When Gilman School, a high academic school in Baltimore, Maryland, changed coaches, Vincent transferred to IMG, in Bradenton, Florida, his junior year. The move created new challenges for Vincent. For one, he would be doing his own laundry, time management would be up to him, not his parents, and no more of mom’s cooking and sitting at the dinner table with the family for a time.
“At first, it wasn’t an easy choice, and when my coach left (at Gilman), it made it easier to go to IMG,” Vincent said. “There was a challenge at first. I was living on my own for the first time. You grow up fast. I had to wake myself up for school. You do learn to discipline yourself. Time management was a little hard, and that was really the only hard part, at first.
“But in time, I got used to it. It was good, when I look back on it. There were a few times when I had those days when I’d call my mom and tell her that I wanted to come home. She would tell me to suck it up and stressed that the move was better for my future. Now, I’m definitely happy that I did it. I’m going to know how to deal with time management and ahead of the other freshmen coming in at Ohio State, because I’ve been used to it the last two years.”
Vincent committed to Ohio State in April 2017. He chose the Buckeyes over Clemson, Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma and Michigan. Vincent liked the family atmosphere that Ohio State presented, and he was impressed by Buckeyes’ legendary defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
“I talk to Coach Johnson and Coach [Urban] Meyer at least once a week,” Vincent said. “I like how they do things at Ohio State. They really seem to care about their players. When I went to camp up there last summer, I liked what Coach Johnson had to say. You listen to everything he says. I love how he teaches and the techniques he teaches. You see all the guys Ohio State and Coach Johnson put in the NFL You know he knows what he’s doing.”
Vincent likes to pattern his game after Los Angeles Rams’ All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. They’re almost the same proportions. Donald is listed at 6-foot-1, 285 pounds, while Vincent has an inch on him and weighs the same. Donald is quick off the snap, as is Vincent, and both possess great leverage to get under an offensive lineman’s pads and push into gaps. Vincent works well to the ball and is disruptive inside force.
What also sets Vincent apart is the fine blend of strength and speed. He has the feet of a linebacker and the power of a lineman, benching over 400 pounds and squatting over 600 pounds.
Though he grew up in an NFL environment, Troy never really pushed football on his son.
“My dad told me to do the things I like to do, and I was around the game a lot as a kid, and I enjoy it,” said Taron, who could light up a room with his contagious laugh and smile. “This has been a great time and my father always stresses to enjoy it and live in the moment. I’m trying to take all of this in. My dad says this process only comes along once and it’s important that I take it all in. I’m trying to appreciate everything and be grateful.
“I love life, I do. But on the field, there is that switch. I love playing jokes on people. That changes on the field. I loved the Detroit Lions growing up, because I loved the way Ndamukong Suh played. I’ll admit it, there is a little anger switch that goes on when I play. I know how to control it. I can’t wait to get to Ohio State. I also love the way Aaron Donald plays. He plays hard and creates a lot of problems.”
At around eighth grade, Taron would walk up to his dad and measure himself.
“I think I was taller than my dad when I was in eighth grade,” Taron says, laughing. “Every time I could, I reminded him that I was taller than him. I can’t be more grateful to my parents and my coaches. This is a great time, but I might miss track a little bit.”
And the shocking stares that came each time Taron passed the other kids.