The latest transfer portal addition for the Samford football coach and his staff is a familiar face. Michael Vice, a former All-Southern Conference tight end for the Bulldogs, has decided to return to the program for his final college season after spending a year at Troy.
"I just kind of decided that I didn't really love Troy," Vice said. "It was kind of tough last year watching Samford have the success they did. I was part of the team for three years, and not being a part of the championship team, I guess I wanted to be a part of that. It felt weird not being part of the team. I had the chance to come back and figured I wanted to do that in my last year."
Vice, a 6-foot-4, 253-pound Vestavia Hills High product, said he used ESPN+, which he has on his phone, to keep up to date on a special Samford season. The Bulldogs won a school-record 11 games, captured an outright Southern League football title for the first time in school history and made it to the FCS quarterfinals before losing at North Dakota State.
"I would watch the offense," Vice said. "I still know a lot of those guys. I'm still friends with them. It was fun to watch and keep up with them. I know (quarterback) Mike Hiers. We met each other during quarantine. We threw and worked out together. He's a good dude. Chandler Smith, obviously, I kept up with him and the other players. It was good to keep up with everyone."
He didn't just watch a championship season. He also was part of one at Troy. The Trojans, under first-year head coach Jon Sumrall, won 12 games, captured the Sun Belt regular season title, won the Sun Belt Championship Game and beat UTSA in the Cure Bowl. Vice played in all 14 games with 12 catches for 105 yards. He had a season-best three catches in the opener against Ole Miss and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass against Texas State.
"I definitely was fortunate enough to be part of a winning team, and I did play a role on the team," Vice said. "I was happy with the way our season turned out. But, at the end of the day, I felt like it wasn't necessarily the same as being at Samford. I pretty much wanted to get back. It was definitely fun to be a part of. Coach Sumrall is a really good coach. He is very good at what he does. It was cool to be a part of, and I hope they have success this year, too."
Vice looked around at other programs once he entered the transfer portal. He had plenty of interest from FBS schools, including UAB. He took a visit to UConn and received recruiting attention from MAC schools.
In the end, though, his choice was clear.
"I kind of just felt like it was right to go back to Samford," Vice said. "That's the decision I made, and I'm happy with it. When I went on these visits to the schools, I was comparing them to Samford. It was definitely reinforcement on knowing I made the right decision and wanted to go back and spend my last year with everyone and be home. I'm real excited about it."
Vice returns to a program where he had success. He was a Freshman All-American in 2019 and an All-SoCon performer in the spring and fall seasons in 2021. In 29 games during his first stop at Samford, he had 76 catches for 866 yards with 10 touchdowns.
He will be eligible to play immediately as a graduate student. Vice said he would finish a degree in general studies with minors in sports administration, communication and humanities in May.
"I feel like I definitely grew as a person, being away from home," Vice said. "As a player, I felt like I made improvements in some stuff I do in my game. I think it was good for me to come to Troy for a year, but I'm looking forward to going back definitely."
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819News.com.
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