Courtesy of the New England Patriots/David Silverman
Former Edwardsville standout football player Vincent Valentine (right) locks up with Miami Dolphins offensive guard Anthony Steen during Week 2 action. Valentine is enjoying his rookie season in the NFL as a defensive tackle with the New England Patriots.
Vincent Valentine is enjoying a torrid start to his NFL career.
The 2012 Edwardsville High grad is seeing plenty of playing time on the defensive line for the New England Patriots. He made his impression felt immediately, sacking Arizona’s Carson Palmer in his pro debut on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” during Week 1. He chipped in with three solo tackles off the bench, too.
Through four games, the 6-foot-3, 320-pound D-lineman has logged 9 total tackles, including 4 solos and 5 assists to go with 1 sack. He’s still looking for his first start.
Valentine was selected in the third round with the 96th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Pats. It came after a roller-coaster career at Nebraska, where he totaled 76 tackles, seven sacks and a forced fumble in 36 games with 24 starts.
He redshirted his freshman year with the Cornhuskers in 2012 and then played in all 26 games the next two seasons, registering 17 starts. He missed three games as a junior due to injury, starting 7 of the 10 games he played.
There were mixed emotions on his NFL stock regarding his work ethic coming in, but the potential was there and landing in a system like New England can definitely do a young player wonders.
Valentine got a little bit of an uptick when the Pats released veteran defensive tackle Terrence Knighton prior to the season. It was an eye opener toward the business side of football but opened the door for the former EHS standout.
Analysts have raved about Valentine’s strength, applauding his bull-rushing abilities. It will hopefully pave the way to a successful career for him.
With his appearance against the Cardinals in Week 1, Valentine became the first Edwardsville graduate to play in an NFL game since Morris Bradshaw did so during the 1982 season. Bradshaw also was playing in New England. He closed out his career there after winning two Super Bowls in eight seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
Valentine became the fourth former Tiger to play in the NFL overall with his Sept. 11 debut. Steve Carpenter played in a few games with the New York Jets and St. Louis Cardinals in 1980 and ‘81, while Bob Hoskins played with the San Francisco 49ers from 1970-75 and Wilbur Volz played one season with the Buffalo Bills in 1949.
Former Edwardsville standout Antonio “Chico” Brown played on the practice squad with the St. Louis Rams for a bit. Brown graduated from EHS in 1995, where he was a standout football and basketball player.
Valentine’s former prep teammate, 2011 Edwardsville grad Rodney Coe, is trying to join him on Sundays. Coe was signed as a free agent out of Akron by the Dallas Cowboys after not being drafted, but he was cut prior to the start of the ‘16 regular season.
On Sept. 14 Coe caught on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s currently serving as a defensive tackle on their practice squad. Coe had 12 tackles and one for a loss with the Cowboys during preseason action.
And who knows what the future holds for current EHS All-American and Iowa-bound A.J. Epenesa? He could be in the NFL conversation a little later down the road in his career, as could former Tiger Nick Kaltmayer. A 2015 Edwardsville grad and offensive lineman at Kansas State, Kaltmayer (6-7, 280) is a sophomore there, transferring after his freshman campaign at Western Illinois.
Time will tell what happens with Coe, Kaltmayer and Epenesa. For now, Valentine can enjoy the spotlight on a New England team with a 3-1 record and its future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady returning from suspension this weekend.
Who knows: maybe Valentine can even join Bradshaw as a former Tiger who gets to hoist a Lombardi Trophy by the end of this season. The future is definitely bright.
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