Love of the game

Ex-Tiger Vincent hoping to make return to NFL

Justin Vincent has a BCS national championship ring and a Super Bowl ring. And thanks to being out of football last spring, he now has a degree in communication studies.

But before the 28-year-old Vincent gets on with the rest of his life, a notion he’s quite comfortable with, he wants one more thing: another shot at earning an NFL roster spot.

For each of the past four summers, the former LSU running back who was the most valuable player of the two biggest wins of the Tigers’ run to the BCS title in 2003, has been told he’s not good enough to play in the NFL.

As a result, not even a lockout of players by league owners this spring and summer has ended the dream for Vincent, who expects to sign with the Seattle Seahawks when the NFL Players Association ratifies a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and training camps open.

That Vincent is still willing to chase the dream is remarkable considering he’s been cut five times: once by the Atlanta Falcons, who gave him his first NFL shot when they signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2007, and four times by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He spent the 2008 and ’09 seasons bouncing between the Steelers’ practice squad and unemployment, although he did receive a ring in 2008 when Pittsburgh won Super Bowl XLIII.

“Not having job security is not one of the things you want,” Vincent said of his NFL experiences so far. “But I love (football) to death, and having the opportunity to play again is something I’m looking forward to.”

Yet, the likable Lake Charles native knows it will probably be his last hurrah.

Because he was out of practice-squad eligibility last fall after again being released by the Steelers, Vincent, who averaged 4.3 yards per carry in the preseason in 2010, was forced to sit by the phone for a chance that never came, even though he worked out for several teams.

Interestingly enough, the one call he got early this offseason came from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who tried to recruit Vincent for USC in 2003 before he chose LSU.

“That’s the only connection I ever had with him,” Vincent said. “But he remembered me and talked about my (high school) stats when he called.”

Vincent was ready to sign on with the Seahawks when the old CBA was extended a week in early March, but everything was put on hold when the lockout began a week later.

Vincent, who’s worked out the past few months with former LSU running backs Charles Scott and Stevan Ridley, thinks the work stoppage may help him when camps open.

Despite not being able to take part in minicamps, organized team activities and classroom studies, Vincent said it could give him an advantage over other younger players.

“I think the lockout will benefit a guy like me because the coaches are not going to have a lot of time to evaluate the undrafted rookies,” he said. “So it could help the guys that have already been in the NFL and know the system and know how things operate.”

If it doesn’t work out, it won’t be the end of the world for Vincent.

He’ll just return to his two jobs in Baton Rouge — working with young athletes at the Marucci Elite Training Center and in business development with a local supply company — knowing he gave it his best shot one more time.

“I love what I do, and they treat me well,” Vincent said of his employers. “But you can’t say no (to football).

“I love football, too, and when the (CBA) deal goes through, I’ll be ready to go.”