Like he has for years, Thomas Vincent is glued to the television on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
The King’s junior quarterback watches the Washington Huskies and the Seattle Seahawks every weekend.
These days Vincent isn’t just an avid follower of his hometown teams, though. He’s a quarterback seeking to learn more about the game.
“I used to watch it as a fan, but this year I’m kind of looking at defenses,” Vincent said.
Instead of just admiring a touchdown pass from Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselback to wide receiver Nate Burleson, Vincent studies the coverage of the secondary or looks at the routes of the other receivers.
That Vincent watches games differently than in the past is just another sign of his maturation as a football player. Nowhere is that more evident than on the gridiron as he has led the surprising Knights to a 5-1 record in the Cascade Conference and 6-2 overall. King’s came off a 2008 campaign where it finished 3-5 and 4-6.
“We knew we’d be good, but we weren’t expecting to be this good,” Vincent said.
Much of the credit for the Knights’ success goes to Vincent, who is putting up dazzling numbers in his second season as the starting quarterback. Through last week’s game against Granite Falls, Vincent has rushed for 1,193 yards on 129 carries for an average of 9.25 yards per carry. He’s completed 84 of 154 passes for 1,752 yards for average of almost 21 yards per catch. Vincent has run for 16 touchdowns and thrown for 25 TDs. King’s is averaging 41.5 points per game this season, up from 22.1 points last year.
No wonder Vincent has one word to describe the King’s offense.
“Explosive,” he said. “We can score. Quick, short passes turn into 60-, 70-yard touchdowns, which is good. We’re quick. We’re not the biggest team out there. We’re all fast and conditioned.”
Vincent also should add well-prepared to the list.
“Last year I was kind of new to everything and just kind of winging it,” Vincent said. “But this year I know what I’m doing.”
It helped that Vincent put in a significant amount of work in the offseason.
“One thing about Thomas is the offseason he is just a go-getter when it comes to training,” Shapiro said.
Almost right after the 2008 season ended Vincent and his teammates started working out. In the spring, Vincent started throwing the football around and working on his defensive reads. He also was busy in the summer with camps and passing leagues. Vincent also works with a personal trainer.
“I’d be in our weight room, lifting and then I’d always be talking to the coaches about certain stuff and be working with them on technique,” Vincent said. “I’d get together with a couple receivers and we’ll go to the park and play some catch.”
Said Shapiro, “He really made an investment in the offseason in his football development. I think we’re seeing the dividends.”
Another major reason for Vincent’s success this season is having started at quarterback last year.
The difference from his sophomore to junior season is startling. Vincent threw for 1538 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for 728 yards and 11 scores in 2008. After six games this season, he already had thrown and rushed for more yardage than he did all last year.
“That was a huge building block for him, just getting confident under center and just the whole pace of the game,” Shapiro said. “This is really like a senior year for him because he had that first year.”
Vincent (6 feet, 190 pounds) grew almost three inches from his sophomore to junior year and added about 20 pounds, most of which is all muscle. He clocks in at 4.6 for his 40, has a 32-inch vertical leap, bench presses 285 pounds and squats 420.
“He’s actually one of the strongest kids on our team,” Shapiro said.
Vincent actually is a relatively newcomer to the sport compared to many of his teammates. He only started playing football in the eighth grade. During his freshman season at King’s, Vincent tore his hamstring. He was playing running back at the time.
Shapiro and his coaching staff then decided to switch him to quarterback.
“For us, it was just he was a competitor,” Shapiro said. “He was a strong athlete, even as a freshman and a good running back. … At the time, we needed someone who could fill that spot and it was just the luck of the draw.”
The biggest area of development in Vincent’s game is his passing. Early on in his career, Shapiro would have said he was more of a running quarterback.
“He was a running back we converted to quarterback,” Shapiro said. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised with his ability to throw the ball and make good decisions at this point.”
This Thursday Vincent will lead King’s against defending league champion Archbishop Murphy If the Knights beat the Wildcats and Cedarcrest loses to Lakewood on Friday, then King’s would win its first-ever Cascade Conference championship. Wins by King’s and Cedarcrest would result in a three-way tie for first place.
As for Vincent’s long term future, Shapiro expects him to build upon the success he’s experienced so far in 2009 and maybe even add a couple more inches to his frame.
“It’s really up to him,” said Shapiro, noting that Vincent already is drawing interest from colleges. “I’ve no doubt athletically he’s going to come into his senior year much stronger and bigger. It just depends on how much he wants to develop his fundamentals.”