Towson's Vinson ready to attack foes, records Knee healed, eager to lead offense

August 31, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

Tony Vinson has learned some valuable lessons in the past year.

First, while cracking the 1,000-yard barrier in only seven games for Towson State last fall, Vinson discovered he had the tools to turn the heads of NFL scouts. But in the eighth game, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Indiana (Pa.), he found out how suddenly a promising football career could end.

Luckily, Vinson will get a second chance. Surgery has repaired the partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. And after five months of rehabilitation, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior tailback has pronounced himself ready to resume punishing defenses.

"It [being unable to play] was hard. Just being an athlete, you want to play," Vinson said at yesterday's annual picture day at Towson State. "It made me take a look at things. I never really thought about injuries and how easily they can happen. You see guys working to come back from an injury, but I didn't realize how hard it is to get back."

As Gordy Combs, Towson's second-year coach, sees it, Vinson is back where he belongs -- as the cornerstone of a Towson offense that averaged 438 yards and 24.5 points a game last year.

The Tigers figure to hurt opponents in a variety of ways, beginning with junior quarterback Dan Crowley, who already has thrown for 4,105 yards and 30 touchdowns in less than two seasons. Throw in junior wide receiver Mark Orlando (35 receptions, 730 yards, eight touchdowns last year) and junior tailback Brian McCarty (703 yards rushing, eight touchdowns), who filled in admirably for Vinson in the final three games last fall.

But the attack ultimately revolves around Vinson, a rare Division I-AA package of size, speed and strength.

"He's got to be one of the best backs ever to play here, including David Meggett," said Combs, referring to the New York Giants star. "He's so deceiving, because he's such a fluid athlete. Not only can he run around you, he can run through you. He makes everyone in our offense better. He's our horse."

"It's exciting to block for him. You know he's going to break a few tackles, and you want to open the holes for him so he can do his magic," senior offensive tackle Karl Nieberlein said. "You need a back who does as much work as an offensive lineman, and that's Tony."

After playing sparingly at Purdue for two years, Vinson transferred to Towson in 1991, sat out that season, then moved into the backfield last season.

Using his 4.55 speed and a slashing style, he started piling up impressive yardage in a hurry. In the season's third game against Hofstra, he set a school record with 256 yards rushing in a 37-18 victory. Four weeks later, he carried 41 times for 264 yards -- both school records -- to lead Towson to a 28-21 victory over James Madison. Before his knee injury, Vinson had rushed for 1,042 yards, another record.

Vinson then turned the injury to his advantage. While rehabilitating his knee, he camped in the weight room, and the results are eye-catching. He now bench presses 340 pounds and has added 10 pounds of bulk.

Barring injury, Vinson expects to shatter Dan Ricker's career rushing record of 1,876 yards. He also expects his NFL stock to rise. But, while gesturing toward his teammates, Vinson talked about his top priority for the moment.

"Sure, my dream is to play professional football. But I've got to concentrate on playing the hardest I can every day and doing whatever I can for this team," Vinson said.

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