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Utah State football: Zach Vigil driven to succeed

Published September 25, 2013 6:56 pm

USU football • Junior's intensity, work ethic have propelled him from walk-on to leader.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan •Â He's one of the loud ones at practice.

Zach Vigil demands attention with the way he shouts out encouragement or, if you're unlucky, criticism. When he's focused, he's the drill sergeant of the defense. He doesn't take practice lightly.

His teammates don't just abide his vocal nature — they respect it. Because Vigil, a junior linebacker and one of the members of the team's leadership group, has earned that respect. He's earned it every day since he walked onto the team: with his work ethic, with his devotion, with his play.

"He just grinds every day," coach Matt Wells said. "He's a high effort guy; he's a high-motor guy."

Vigil is one of the Aggies who never turns off. There's a funny side of him, to be sure, and his wisecracks can make any teammate within earshot grin.

But an intensity burns beneath. Vigil is often the last one to be satisfied, even by his defense's best performance.

At USC, a game in which he had 12 tackles and recovered a fumble, the Aggies allowed three points in the second half. Too many, he said.

"I didn't expect to be 2-2 at this point in the season," Vigil said after Tuesday's practice. "Just thinking about that gets me right now."

Peel back the layers, the brash, commanding demeanor, and Vigil never lost the desire that led him to walk onto Utah State football team after graduating from Clearfield.

He was an all-WAC honoree last year at middle linebacker with his friend Jake Doughty, but in his mind, he's competing for his own job every day. Among his competition is his brother, Nick Vigil, who he said "is right on my heels."

The fire was nearly extinguished, the motor nearly halted in 2011. Vigil was plagued by injuries, tearing the meniscus in each knee and having surgeries in both. He was close to ending his football career before it truly began at Utah State.

"I think about it pretty often, actually," he said. "I think about how close I was to almost calling it quits because I was so banged up early on when I started up here. I'm so grateful that I stuck it out, and I thank God that he helped me."

Vigil's intensity and effort gave him a crack as a starter in 2012, and he was surprise of the year, racking up 105 tackles and 5.5 sacks as a sophomore. This year, he's second to Doughty, a fellow walk-on, in tackles with 35, and he's forced two fumbles as well.

Nothing holds him back — not even his own body. Vigil said he tore one of his labrum muscles and rotator cuff in his shoulder some time ago and never had surgery. It doesn't bother him or give him much pain, he said.

"The only reason that is holding up is by the grace of God," he said. "I have no idea how that works still."

Even though he's earned his way on the field, Vigil is still insatiable for success. It frustrates him to lose, and he takes out his frustration on the practice field, in the film room, and ultimately in games. His desire to punish his opponents can lift the Aggies' defense.

And his teammates and coaches love to see that side of him.

"I think he was a blue-collar tough-edged kid when he came into the program," Wells said. "By being a walk-on and going through and earning a scholarship like he has, and earning all the accolades he gets, what he's done is he's earned respect from his teammates."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Zach Vigil file

O 105 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks as a sophomore.

• 35 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 2 FF, 1 FR in four games this year.

• A two-time all-stater at Clearfield High, where he played safety and wideout.

• Older brother of Nick Vigil, freshman linebacker at USU. —

Utah State at San Jose State

O Friday, 7 p.m.

TV • ESPN