Lake Charles native Mark Vital Jr. to pursue NFL career
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Former Baylor National Championship basketball player Mark Vital Jr. announced his intention Monday to pursue an NFL career. This coming just a few weeks after playing in the NBA Summer League with the Portland Trailblazers, averaging 1.3 points, four rebounds and .7 assists in three games.
“I’ve worked out for a couple of teams and they liked the way I looked. They said I had great hands and I was fast and big,” said Vital. “I can do a lot of things that can help teams. It’s a learning experience because it’s something different.”
One of those teams, Vital admitted, was the Dallas Cowboys. He also said other chances to work with NFL teams are upcoming.
Vital said his choice to switch careers had nothing to do with a lack of opportunities in the NBA.
“I was never going to leave basketball just to leave basketball. I had a plan, but I had to make sure that the plan was right,” said Vital. “I’m leaving basketball with things on the table. I had exhibit 10s, two-ways and overseas deals. For me to leave that, I actually had to have something in football.”
It’s a 180-degree turn for the Lake Charles native following his insistence in the past that he’s “not a football player.”
“I had a tweet from a while back that I recently deleted because I didn’t want it to go viral. I said, ‘don’t compare me to a football player because I’m never going to be a football player.’ Next thing you know, guess what happens? I’ve made the decision to be a football player,” said Vital. “Everyone was sending it to me and laughing, so I had to just delete it.”
In fact, the gridiron will be new to Vital after not playing in college or high school.
“I played a little in middle school, but I was bigger than everybody. I wasn’t taking licks like that, I was basically running over everybody,” admitted Vital. “At that point, it’s not the same.”
However, Vital has grown since middle school and even compared to NFL bodies, he’ll be bigger than most. Vital was listed by the Trailblazers at 6-5, 250 pounds. He said his size, speed and background have drawn comparisons to an NFL legend.
“ I feel like I can be a Hall of Famer. I’m already getting compared to Antonio Gates from different scouts and teams when hearing them talk about me. I’m already getting compared to a Hall of Famer and that’s motivation to me to get to that level,” admitted Vital. “I can see the similarities. He and I are both explosive, fast and big. We are built the same.”
Vital has been dodging comparisons for most of his college career. Vital’s play often had him linked to former Baylor forward and fellow Louisiana native Rico Gathers. Gathers also chose to forgo a pro basketball career to focus on pro football aspirations.
“The reason that I shot down a lot of stuff with Rico is because I wanted to be my own person. I have brothers too and I always have been in their shadows. I didn’t want Rico’s image to overshadow mine. I always wanted to be my own person. I shot it down a lot, as much as possible even when I knew it was true. I didn’t want to hear the comparison, I didn’t want to hear it at that time,” Vital admitted. “They’re going to compare me to Rico, but as I said, Rico and I are two different players on the basketball and football field.”
While pro basketball opportunities will still be on the table for the foreseeable future, Vital is doubling down on a new dream— to be an NFL athlete.
“Once I got 100% in this, I am 100% in it. I don’t think I’m going to turn back on it. The offers will always be there, but I don’t think I’m going back to basketball. I’ll revisit it when I have kids. I can revisit it then and teach them a couple of things and they’ll have a better offensive game than me. I can revisit it then,” Vital said. “I’m hanging up the shoes and putting on cleats.”
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