No matter what he’s talking about, Troy Vincent speaks with emotion, excitement usually, in a way that makes the listener imagine the former All-Pro defensive back smiling broadly through the phone.
He’s confident, articulate, and enthusiastic, especially when talking about his Thursday induction into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, an honor even more special, he said, because it will occur in the city he still calls home, the town he grew up rooting for as a boy in Trenton and Langhorne, and the place he played for during eight dominant seasons with the Eagles.
But the NFL executive only gets eyes-welled, choked-up emotional when he talks about his family, his five children and his wife, Tommi, who will be beside him Thursday.
Vincent, 49, paused and let his voice break when he described the hug he was going to give his youngest son, Tanner, a high school freshman in Virginia, after his football game Tuesday night.
He’s especially proud of Tanner, he said, because he waited to play football until this summer, waited to see if he loved the game the same way his father and older brothers did.
“Remember who you are. Remember who you represent. Have fun. Always be a teammate.”
They are values, Vincent said, that he learned from his Pennsbury High School football coach, the late Jim Dundala, and were reinforced during his 15-year NFL playing career.
They served him well. In 1992, he was drafted as the seventh overall pick by the Miami Dolphins. He played four seasons there before signing with the Eagles in 1996. During his time in Philadelphia, he had 28 interceptions, was selected to the Pro Bowl five times, and was first-team All-Pro in 2002.
“When I think about it today, it was like a dream come true,” he said of playing for his hometown team. He loved the people in the city, “the best people in the world,” and thrived in the no-nonsense, blue-collar environment, he said.
“It was either win or no excuses for losses,” Vincent said. “Line up, and get it done.”
He went on to play for the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins before retiring after the 2006 season.
Today, Vincent serves as the NFL’s executive vice president of Football Operations, overseeing everything from officiating to compliance to player engagement. In the role, he’s making history as the highest-ranking African American in professional football and the highest-ranking former player on the business side of the game.
The job keeps him busy. He gets only a few hours of sleep per night during the season, he said, and often commutes from NFL headquarters in New York to his family’s home in Northern Virginia. But to Vincent, the long hours are worth it.
“I love the game of football and what it means,” he said. “People ask, ‘What drives you?’ The difference we can make. That drives me."
He loves the way the game brings people together, he said, and the ability it has to take a kid like him from East Trenton, let him live a dream, and then give him a platform to help others do the same.
In his NFL role, he sometimes visits youth football games, where he said he looks forward to seeing the passion in the eyes of 8-year-olds swallowed by shoulder pads and watching as parents cheer them on from the stands. He also enjoys the days when he can visit college programs, he said, and look out at an auditorium of about 100 players, all dreaming like he did as a young man at Wisconsin.
He uses his platform to help people outside the football world, too. He advocates for diversity and inclusion and has become a national leader in speaking out against domestic violence, for which the NFL has been criticized for its handling in the past.
“It’s a commitment I made to my mother,” said Vincent, who said he saw her get beaten by a boyfriend as a child. “To me, that’s a non-negotiable."
And when it comes to diversity and inclusion, he was able to serve as “a bridge builder” in the conversation about players taking a knee during the national anthem, he told the Root Magazine in 2017.
For his activism and philanthropy, he’s received multiple honors, including the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. For his success on the gridiron, he’s already been inducted into several Hall of Fames, including those of the Eagles and the state of Pennsylvania.
But Thursday will be a unique honor, he said, to be back home and be enshrined in Philadelphia sports history alongside his friend “Don,” former teammate Donovan McNabb.
When Vincent is asked to reflect on his time with the Eagles, he mentions on-field accomplishments only in passing.
His favorite moments, he said, were the ones that brought him closer to his teammates and the community. Joking around with McNabb in the locker room. Visiting Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Driving around the city in the Eagles Eye Mobile, the green bus that gives free eye exams and glasses to underserved children.
Those memories will be on his mind Thursday.
“I’m happy,’ Vincent said. “It’s a really special moment because it’s home.
“I’m home,” he said, pausing as if to let the words sink in. “I’m home.”