By Cillea Houghton
NASHVILLE, TN — For former NFL player Troy Vincent, the 2019 NFL Draft was about more than the major league teams, it was an opportunity to inspire youth. That’s exactly what he and his wife Tommi Vincent accomplished through their organization Vincent Country by hosting a mock draft for Waverly Belmont Bulldogs Youth Football.
“At each one of our events, my wife and I try to sew a seed back into local neighborhoods,” Troy said. Wanting to bring the Draft to a community of people that may not have had the chance to attend, the Vincents selected the Waverly Belmont Bulldogs, a youth football league in south Nashville, based off a recommendation from his former teammate Blaine Bishop, who worked with the Bulldogs while playing for the Tennessee Titans. After hosting a mock draft where each young player got to walk on stage and receive a jersey with their last name and a No. 1 printed on the back, Troy, along with former NFL players Robert Taylor and Takeo Spikes, met with the students to offer words of advice.
“What are some of the transferable life-skills that the game of football provides? Teamwork, resiliency, character, communication. We talk about those things with the kids…and just to say ‘you can do it, there’s nothing special about us. Don’t allow your circumstances to stop you or become a hindrance.’”
Bulldogs player Jay Johnson said he was “blessed” to be a part of the Draft, witnessing the camaraderie of professional football and learning the value of hard work. “The biggest lesson I learned today was to be humble. When I say humble, it’s because I just think about how God blessed me to have this opportunity today, I just think I’m very lucky. I should work hard from this day on just to show I deserve to have this spot today,” Johnson said.
While Troy engaged with the players, Tommi spoke with their mothers about the benefit of sports and how the skills their children learn in football, such as self-advocacy, will assist them in life. “I wanted them to understand that what they’re doing is they’re setting their kids up hopeful for a future, and for them to make sure in the process that they don’t lose themselves and that they create space for own selves to shine, and in that, they’re also teaching their children that same value,” she said.
One mother who was deeply impacted by Tommi’s words was Rose Hill, who was encouraged to attend the event by Rodney Owens, president of Waverly Belmont Youth Football. Hill originally refused to allow her three sons to play sports after watching the film Concussion, which chronicles the head trauma football players endure from the game. But Tommi’s insight into the value of sports gave her a new perspective, inspiring her to enroll her 5-year-old son Braylen in the Bulldogs baseball program.
“She helped me to see the bigger picture, and the bigger picture in my eyes is let your child have options,” Hill said, adding that she learned that sports is a way to “uplift” and “motivate” her children. “It’s something to teach them discipline and I think that’s big if you start them out young with that foundation and with that understanding.”