Washington State’s Vince Mayle continues his transformation from basketball to receiver
Receiver learning how to use his size as a strength
WSU @ Stanford, 6 p.m., ESPN
PULLMAN — Many young athletes dream of playing professional sports while growing up. Practically none of them pass the athletic litmus test to have a shot.
They pick up a ball or a bat at an early age and put in just as much time, grind just as hard, want to succeed just as badly as the one in 1,000 who actually makes it. But before work ethic and focus come body composition, size and fast-twitch muscle fibers.
It turns out Washington State receiver Vince Mayle had the genetic lottery ticket to some day be a dominant athlete. It was the other stuff that’s come slowly, but he’s changed so much in the past three years he’s barely recognizable.
For starters, he was focused on the wrong sport. Mayle said he was inseparable from a basketball while growing up. He had a respectable community college career, averaging eight points a game and winning a dunk contest.
By Mayle’s own admission he “wasn’t really into school,” so there was a lot of learning to be done.
“I got done with high school and I wasn’t doing what I thought I would be doing at the time,” Mayle said.
Additionally, he realized he wanted to go to a four-year university and even his basketball coach told him football was his best chance. So after taking a year off to help care for his mother, Mayle enrolled at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif., and set about learning to play wide receiver.
“I just didn’t want to be another person just roaming around my home city saying that I could have done this and could have done that,” Mayle said.
With less football experience than a veteran Pop Warner player, Mayle led all California junior-college receivers with 16 touchdowns on his way to a scholarship offer from the Cougars.
The next year he stepped on campus as a 6-foot-3, 240-pound receiver.
“I mean, he was built like a Saturday morning cartoon character — he was all chiseled up,” coach Mike Leach said. “He’s like one of those figurines your mom bought you as a child. He didn’t have a monster face, but it looked like Vince.”
The monster still had to learn how to use his strength. He was one of the biggest receivers in college, but was still trying to make finesse plays against defenders he could simply bowl over.
The eureka moment for Mayle came last season when a California defensive back came at full speed. The defender simply bounced off the much bigger Mayle, who was then on his way to a 72-yard touchdown.
“I realized that nobody wants to hit me,” Mayle said of the play.