The best defensive player in the Mountain West Conference doesn’t really care where his team goes for its fourth straight bowl game. He also isn’t taking time to relish his recognition and the journey he took to get there, from a walk on to being named the best defensive player in his conference. He’s focused on who his next opponent might be and how he can stop them.
“Honestly, it hasn’t set in really because we have one more game,” said USU’s Zach Vigil a few short hours after being named the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. “The grind mentality is still on.
“I haven’t had time to sit back and really appreciate the entire journey as it is. In my opinion it’s still not over. There are still some things I have to accomplish here at Utah State.”
One of those is to end his season on a better note than how the team left things in Boise last weekend by winning a bowl game.
Vigil is the first Aggie to be recognized as a conference defensive player of the year since Tony D’Amato won the award in 1998. Vigil ended the regular season second in the Mountain West and eighth nationally in tackles per game with 11.2. He also leads the league with 145 tackles (74 solo) and tackles for loss (19.5). The 145 tackles rank fourth all-time in Mountain West single season-history. He also recorded nine sacks during the regular season, which is tied for the team lead and second in the conference.
Vigil made a career-high 22 tackles versus Air Force on Oct. 11, which is currently tied for the most by any player in a game at the FBS level this season.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”The Air Force game was awesome just because the entire defense was clicking that night. I know I got recognized as an individual but really my little brother played an outstanding game also,” Vigil said of games that stand out in his mind. “The defensive line had probably their best game of the year in my opinion. That was, overall, just a good night for everybody”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>But that wasn’t the only game that really stands out for Vigil.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”That BYU game was huge. That’s something that we’ll never forget, being from Utah.”
Humbled by the recognition, Vigil had made some goals several months ago to put himself in a position similar to where he finds himself now. He accomplished the goal of being recognized for his personal performance, but he would trade it if his team could play in the conference championship game instead.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>Vigil was joined by his younger brother Nick on the all-conference first team defense, along with defensive teammates Frankie Sutera and BJ Larsen.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”Obviously, Nick has a few more years of good football left here at Utah State. He was very productive and he’s only going to get better, stronger and faster. The future is very bright for Nick.”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”BJ Larsen has been a really good player here for a long time, he’s been a tremendous leader,” Vigil continued. “Frankie Sutera is another walk-on story, he and BJ. Frankie is a very intelligent player, I know I’ve said this multiple times. Frankie is very intelligent and very physical. I couldn’t be more happy for those guys.”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>Besides crediting quality teammates that helped make his job easier, Vigil also shared some of the credit of his award with his coaches.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”There’s quite a few that have helped along the way. The biggest is Kevin Clune. He taught me how to play linebacker, how to watch film. I’ve always had a personality where I’m never satisfied. He just instilled that in me more.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”Coach (Todd) Orlando, after Coach Clune left, has done a tremendous job of teaching me other ways how the linebacker position is a leader as a whole.”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>Vigil is still focusing on preparing for a bowl game, and the free gifts he and his teammates receive, but when the bowl game is over he will turn his attention to preparing himself for the NFL draft.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”It’s pretty crazy, honestly. When I first came here I never imagined myself in this position. Now that I am it’s pretty surreal and things are moving fast. God willing, I’ll have a chance to play at the next level.”