Bryant Vincent spent time on Thursday morning firming up the game plan for his UAB football team’s next game. The UAB football interim head coach mixed in some time to shore up the schedule leading up to getting on a plane for the Blazers’ trip to play in the Bahamas Bowl.
On the surface, it was business as usual. Obviously, with the news breaking this week that Trent Dilfer will be the program’s head coach moving forward, this situation doesn’t stop at the surface.
“I believe that it’s too important to these 21 seniors and the pride of this football team to not prepare the right way,” Vincent said while taking a break to talk. “I have all the faith in this football team, their preparation and their focus. This football team is excited about the opportunity. Knowing it’s the last two weeks together, as this team, we’re looking forward to it. It’s the right way to finish it. That’s something we’ve talked about this entire season, is finish. Don’t let the situation control you. Don’t let the situation define who you are. You define who you are by how you handle yourself through tough situations.”
Vincent said the focus this week has been on finishing strong academically and getting work in the weight room. The coaching staff finished the game plan while dealing with the uncertainty of the next step. On Sunday, they will put the final touches on the game plan before reviewing it with the players in a team meeting. The team will practice five times next week before getting on a plane heading to the Bahamas.
That takes care of the business part of the Blazers in the Bahamas.
What about the mental part of the preparation? How do the players and the coaches find the focus to get ready to play Miami of Ohio in the bowl game? Is it possible?
Like he’s done in every tough situation during a unique year, Vincent is decisive when answering questions like these.
“This season has been a season of uncertainty,” Vincent outlined. “I guess the way to put it is, there have been a lot of unknowns. I think we’ve handled that, as a team and as a program and as a staff, extremely well. Now, we have a different type of situation. This is our last two weeks together, really, as a football team. I believe in this team, in how they have conducted themselves. I have no question, that this football team’s brotherhood, the bond, the standards, the perseverance and character is too strong for us not to finish it.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Vincent walked into the team meeting room inside the UAB Football Operations Center. He faced a room filled with UAB players, staff member and administrators getting ready to meet with Dilfer for the first time. News began breaking of the Dilfer hire on Tuesday night and was officially announced on Wednesday at noon. The meeting was the first time that Vincent had seen the majority of his players after the announcement.
It was an emotional time, for sure. Vincent would not share specifics of his talk to the players but did talk about the moment.
“I think, at that moment, the situation we were in, that’s the opportunity that true leaders step in and do what’s right,” Vincent said. “What we’ve preached to the kids all season was to be steady in the storm, to not let situations define who you are. You define who you are through tough situations. I felt like, as the leader, that was an opportunity to truly show that football team that, in the toughest of tough moments, really what you’re about and what you stand for.”
He left the team with the reminder that they still have plenty to play for before the 2022 season concludes. They can be the third team in bowl history to win a bowl game. Vincent has the opportunity to be the only first-year coach in UAB history to lead his team into a bowl game and, with a win, finish above .500 in Division I play. Bill Clark’s first team finished 6-6, to reach bowl eligibility, but did not play in a bowl game.
Obviously, the next career step is in the minds of Vincent and members of his coaching staff. Dilfer said he would interview members of the staff, if they were interested, to see if anyone would fit on the new staff. It’s part of the business for college football coaches, but it’s certainly not the most comfortable part.
For Vincent, he will have options, but his sole focus right now, he said, is getting the team ready to win a bowl game.
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