Last April, despite being named the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Utah State linebacker Zach Vigil was not selected in the NFL draft. He eventually signed as a free agent with Miami and played in all 16 games as a rookie.
This year when it was clear that Zach’s younger brother and former college teammate Nick was likely to be selected, their father wanted to throw a party on the second night of the draft.
“I said to hold off until I’m actually drafted and something happens,” said Nick Vigil. “You never know with this whole process. He said, ‘OK.’ But there still ended up being 20 or so people there.”
Nick should have trusted his father’s instincts as the Bengals selected Vigil in the third round with the 87th overall pick.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I hadn’t had much contract with them throughout this whole process. My cell phone actually dropped the call. I saw ‘Cincinnati, Ohio’ and I saw their pick was coming up and I kind of panicked a little bit. Good thing my mom had her phone on her and they ended up calling her. She handed me the phone and it was pure excitement.
“I didn’t think I’d necessarily go that high. It was the third round and we were thinking more of the fourth round. When I got the call it was a good moment for me.”
Vigil was a two-year starter at Utah State, earning first-team All-MWC honors in both seasons. He ranked sixth in the nation in tackles last season and turned heads at the NFL Scouting Combine by posting the fastest times among linebackers in the three cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle.
“Vig is flat-out productive,” Utah State coach Matt Wells told the Salt Lake Tribune. “He is flat-out athletic. He’s got tremendous upside – especially on special teams.”
His versatility was evident with the Aggies as Vigil saw action at every linebacker spot and even played some running back, including a game with 16 carries vs. BYU.
“I don’t know how good I was at running back,” said Vigil. “I’m sure those days are over. In a 3-4 defense in college, I played all four linebacker positions throughout my three years. I was a starter on all of the special teams for a while there as a freshman. So anything I can do to help this team I’m willing to do.”
For starters, he’ll try to follow his older brother’s advice on how to succeed as an NFL rookie.
“He said it’s going to be the hardest year of your life,” said Vigil. “It’s going to be hectic and you’re going to just have to take it all in. Act professional because it’s a job, so treat it like that.”
The Bengals face Zach’s Dolphins in week four on Thursday Night Football, and while Miami has missed the playoffs in each of the last seven seasons, Nick joins a Cincinnati franchise looking to make its sixth straight postseason appearance.
“The culture here is obviously fantastic,” said Vigil. “They’ve won consistently over the past few years. They’ve got a great foundation set by the coaches and ownership. And they’ve got a bunch of core players who’ve been really good for a long time. So I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go.”
Nick was in Cincinnati on Saturday to meet with the team and local reporters, but that didn’t prevent his family and friends from celebrating back in Utah.
“They’re having a big party there today with me,” he said. “My mom said that we were going to have to cancel it and move it to Sunday, but my dad said, ‘No way.’
“They said they were going to have to get a cardboard cutout of me.”
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