Logan • Nick Vigil hasn’t gotten flustered much this spring — not by ball-carriers barrelling toward him or blockers trying to knock him off his feet.
But the redshirt freshman’s face flushed red as he listened to his older brother talk about him glowingly. He looked at the ground as Zach Vigil, a seasoned junior, recalled the ease with which his younger sibling dashed past his peers even in middle school.
“Nick’s always been better than me, and it’s something I’ve had to live with my whole life,” said Zach, somewhat facetiously. “I’ve just accepted it at this point.”
Nick, a smile stretching across his face, finally had to interrupt.
“Not true, not true,” he said, suppressing a chuckle.
It’s the lighter side of sibling rivalry: The Vigil boys can’t say enough good things about each other, finally seeing the field together for the first time in their lives. But their good-natured ribbing is Utah State’s gain because many of their compliments happen to be true.
Zach Vigil returns as the stalwart who replaced the departed Bobby Wagner last season, a former walk-on who became an All-WAC second team honoree virtually out of nowhere. He’s helped groom his brother, an All-State running back-turned-linebacker who lit up practice on the scout squad last year.
Coach Matt Wells mentioned both after Thursday’s scrimmage, talking about the linebacking corps as perhaps one of the strongest units on the team.
“I like those guys, the front seven,” Wells said. “I think they will be the backbone of that defense.”
The Vigil brothers certainly will be a big part of that, if the spring is any indication.
Zach is established, but Nick has been one of the quick risers in spring camp. Although he was better known as a runner, he’s been a good understudy for Jake Doughty and his big brother. And the traits that made him a 3,600-yard rusher at Fremont also have helped him adapt to the college game.
“When he played running back, he saw the field really well, and he does that at linebacker now,” Zach said. “He has good feet and he’s very fast, athletic and strong. There’s still things he needs to work on, but there’s things we all can do.”
In film study and team meetings, Zach said he’s not tough on Nick for his mistakes. Linebacker coach Kevin Clune digs into the unit enough, he joked. But that doesn’t mean Nick doesn’t see parts of his brother’s game he’d like to emulate.
“He’s very intense with everything he does,” Nick said. “Always growing up, he’s been a guy who has to have everything perfect. If it’s not perfect, it’s not good enough. I think that’s a good thing to look for in my technique.”
The brothers, the two eldest in a family of five children, always have been good friends, they say. They’ve hunted elk together, and they spend weekends together in college. They just haven’t often had a chance to play together: Zach was a senior at Clearfield when Nick was too young to play varsity, then Nick ended up going to back-to-back championship games at Fremont when Zach was in college.
There might be a few snaps together this year. In the future, who knows? Opposing offenses might be staring down two Vigils starting at linebacker from the first series — not a welcome sight at all.
“Next year when Jake [Doughty] is graduated and goes to the NFL or whatever he’s going to do, it looks like me and my brother will be starting,” Zach said. “But Nick’s going to get a lot of reps this year, and — God willing — we’ll all stay healthy and play some good defense.”
The Vigils at a glance
• 2nd team all-WAC linebacker as a sophomore
• Second in tackles (105) with 5.5 sacks in 2012
• Former walk-on who was an all-state player at Clearfield
• Accumulated 3,653 yards and 45 touchdowns as a running back at Fremont
• Also had 61 tackles and two interceptions as a senior
• Was the Scout Team Defensive MVP last season during his redshirt year