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SALT LAK ECITY — Zach and Nick Vigil are living their dream of playing college football. The fact that they’ve done it together has made it even better.
“To watch your kids actually fulfill one of their first dreams, that’s really special.” said their mother, Kayla.
Zach has had a senior year to remember.
He made 145 tackles, 19.5 for a loss and nine sacks. He was named Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year and a second team All-American.
Nick, a sophomore, forced five fumbles and had seven sacks on defense while also scoring two touchdowns as a running back. He earned first team All-Conference honors.
“It’s kind of surreal, really,” Zach said. “We still have another game left. I don’t think we’ll appreciate that until we are older.”
They developed their competitiveness and toughness since they were young. Both competed in football and rodeo.
“They’ve been close their whole life,” Kayla said. "They are very, very competitive against each other and with others. We are a competitive family.”
To reach this point, the Vigil brothers took different paths.
They've been close their whole life. They are very, very competitive against each other and with others. We are a competitive family.
Zach was a relative unknown at Clearfield High School and graduated with no scholarship offers. He chose to walk on at Utah State. After two years in Logan, he almost walked away from the game of football.
“He wanted to quit,” said his father, Jamie. “I said, 'Son, you haven’t even put the pads on yet. At least give it until spring and see what happens and go from there. At least give it a chance and you won’t have any regrets.'"
Zach followed his father’s advice. He played spring football before his sophomore year in 2012, hoping to prove to coaches what he could do. It looked like that wasn’t possible after Zach suffered a shoulder injury.
“The medical guys were like, 'I don’t know how you’re playing football because your shoulder is worse than him over there and he’s had two surgeries.'"
Zach would need a miracle to play in the spring game. Determined to play, he turned to God.
The Vigils are devout Christians and describe themselves as a “praying family.” Zach returned to the family ranch in Ogden for Sunday dinner prior to the spring game. Jamie Vigil led the family in prayer.
“I said, 'Let’s just put it in the Lord's hands,' and we did,” he said. “About a week later I called him and I said, How are you feeling?' He said, 'Yyou know, not too bad. I’m feeling pretty good,’ and I said, 'good.'”
“God’s been a huge influence in our lives,” Zach said. “I’m very grateful for that personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
With the pain gone, Zach played in the 2012 spring game and made several plays that caught the attention of Aggie coaches.
“That’s when it clicked for me,” Zach said. “That’s when I began being a vocal leader. I cut it loose. That was like the moment when I started to being able to play college football
Jamie noticed the difference and believes he knows where it came from.
“I think that inspiration came from God,” he said. “That’s why he is that vocal leader and that person he has become.”
While Zach was trying to make a name for himself in Logan, Nick already had by his accomplishments in high school.
He was a star running back and linebacker at Fremont High School. He was a 5A MVP as a senior, after rushing for 3,600 yards and 45 touchdowns as a three-year starter. He led the Silverwolves to the 5A state championship game.
He had several offers but the opportunity to play next to his brother each day was too good to pass up. Zach admired his younger brother’s accomplishments and seeing him play both sides of the ball against BYU and Air Force was nothing new.
“That’s the Nick I grew up watching,” Zach said. “Every Saturday in Little League that was Nick, he played middle linebacker and he played running back. So proud of Nick and Nick is a very gifted athlete and always has been.
“I fell in love with the game from a very young age. I always wanted to be around it. I wanted to play with Zach. I actually tried to play a year too early."
The first time Zach and Nick played together was in Little League. Unfortunately the opportunity only lasted one day.
“The coach came up to me and said, 'How old are you?' 'I’m only 6, and he’s like, 'Well you can’t play,'” Nick said.
When the brothers were finally reunited on the football field, they made the most of it. They have formed the most dominant linebacker duo in the Mountain West Conference. Their time together on the field will come to an end Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl. It will be a special moment for the entire family.
The time to reflect will come later, the brothers said, but each knows how special that game will be and they can’t wait to make it a memorable one.
“This year has been pretty cool,” Zach said. “Before each game, we give each other a hug and say I love you, go out there, the team needs you. We do a lot of bickering but that’s the one moment we’re both very sincere. We know we’re not going to have this forever. We had it for one year and we get one more game to out and do it again together.”