NEW IBERIA – It’s probably safe to assume that just about everyone has either heard the story of Daniel Eugene Ruettiger or if nothing else have watched the film “Rudy.”
In the event you haven’t, Ruettiger was a 5-foot-6, 185-pound defensive lineman, who dreamed of one day playing football for the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish despite the lack of interest from anyone due to his lack of size.
But Ruettiger had something that couldn’t be measured and that was heart and determination, two attributes that resulted in him eventually being accepted into Notre Dame and ultimately dressing the last game of his senior season in which he recorded a sack on the final play of the game.
Although he wasn’t trying to fulfill a life-long dream of playing for the Catholic High of New Iberia Panthers’ football team, Blair Vincent admits that he can identify with the difficulties endured by Ruettiger.
Vincent is a 5-foot-3, 228-pound defensive lineman for the Panthers and through his first two years of high school he didn’t get much of a chance to prove his worth as a football player.
“My freshman and sophomore year I didn’t get much of an opportunity to play on the varsity team,” Vincent said. “I wanted to play and I knew that I was capable of playing, but because of my lack of size I didn’t get much of a chance.”
As a result, Vincent became discouraged and considered quitting the team.
“I know that I was inexperienced and my lack of size was hurting me,” Vincent said. “But I was working really hard. I was very frustrated so yeah I thought about quitting. I just wanted a chance to show the coaches that I can play and that it doesn’t matter your size as long as you play with a lot of heart and work hard.”
As soon as new head coach Brent Indest arrived last year in time for Vincent’s junior season, Vincent was hoping a fresh set of eyes to watch him in practice would provide him the opportunity to make a new impression.
But initially, Indest didn’t give him much of a look.
“Honestly, when I took over Blair was an after thought,” Indest said. “He was an after thought because when you look at his stature and the fact that he’s such a mild-mannered kid, you are thinking this kid doesn’t really fit into the plans as a future player for us.”
After reviewing the film from the spring, Indest was amazed at what he saw along the defensive line.
“We we’re going through drills and on our defensive line we do a lot of slanting and moving,” Indest said. “The first thing I saw from Blair on film was that his first two steps in the ground were faster than any defensive lineman we had. It was at that moment that I said “hey, this kid can play.”
That’s when all of Vincent’s hard work began to pay off as he earned a role in the Panthers defensive line rotation on the varsity team and ever since he has been a play making machine.
“We do a lot of rotating with our defensive linemen so that we can keep them all fresh,” Indest said. “Blair did a great job for us last year and he has continued doing a great job for us this year. The biggest difference this year for Blair compared to last year is that he isn’t just controlling his gap. He’s making plays.”
The fact that he is making plays along the Panthers’ defensive line doesn’t come as a surprise to Vincent, because he’s felt he was capable of that all along.
“I just had to have that Rudy mindset,” Vincent said. “I knew that I could play football, but I just had to prove it to the coaches. I could have quit but that wouldn’t have proved anything. But staying” has been the best decision I could have made. It was more than worth it.”