With Help of His Hall of Fame Hero, Georgia's Vance Chases NFL Dream
Each day Vance scrolls through his numbers, e-mails and text messages until he finds the few sentences he quickly punched in one afternoon following a workout with Slater. Vance uses Slater's tips as motivation as Vance continues his preparations for Pro Day at the University of Georgia.
While overlooked by this past weekend's NFL scouting combine, Vance, a three-year starter with the Bulldogs, is determined to make a favorable impression and prove he belongs in the NFL. And who else better to learn from than Slater, a seven-time Pro Bowler who played his entire 20-year NFL career in the Rams' organization?
"I couldn't have asked for a better experience," Vance told FanHouse.
"Jackie talked about not just getting into the league but how to stay in the league, how to take care of our bodies, how to prepare. His knowledge of the game is amazing; it just goes on and on and never stops."
Slater worked each day with Vance and other offensive linemen on the practice fields here at The Home Depot Center, where the group has been training since early January with the Athletes' Performance Institute.
One can't escape Vance's bright smile, polite manner and imposing size (6-foot-7, 317 pounds). Yet, Vance realizes he must continue to work and improve if he wants to accomplish his childhood dream to play in the NFL.
Vance enjoyed a solid career at Georgia but his production was limited after he suffered a right knee injury in the season's sixth game against Tennessee in 2008. Known for his toughness and versatility -- Vance has played both guard and tackle positions -- Vance played in all 12 games (starting two) last season.
Vance arrived in California in early January with a purpose. Georgia's Pro Day is March 16.
"I've been working hard -- there's nothing else for me to do but make a great impression," Vance said.
"It's what I have to do. No. 1, I want to show and prove to NFL coaches that my knee is not going to be a factor -- it's 110 percent and stronger than ever -- and, No. 2, I know I can play in the NFL. Regardless of where I go or where they want me, I have played them (positions) all and I can play them successfully.
"I can be a factor for anybody's team. I am a competitor. Give me a playbook and let's go."
Vance has spent eight hours a day, six days a week training his mind and body. He has dropped more than 20 pounds through performance drills, nutrition analysis, weight lifting and physical therapy; has focused on his blocking technique and fundamentals; and has been prepped for NFL team interviews and testing.
"Like any other kid -- I started playing football in the seventh grade -- you always want to be like that guy in the NFL," Vance said.
For Vance, that guy was Slater.
Slater, 55, who blocked for 24 different quarterbacks and 37 different running backs during his long career, required Vance to take notes following their practice sessions.
Yes, Vance had homework each night he returned to his room. Slacking was not an option. Slater actually asked for the notes the next day, stuffing the paper into a bag and making Vance re-write and add to the notes that evening.
"Jackie worked right alongside us and did all the drills," said Vance, whose workouts with Slater recently ended.
"He's still a big-framed guy. I can definitely see why he was the man back in the day. He pushed us. He got our minds altered to think like he thinks and speak like he speaks."
Plus, Vance only has to search his telephone for his daily reminder from Slater.
"I didn't want to forget," Vance said as he scrolled through his cell phone.
"The two most important things for an offensive lineman to remember at all times and be successful in the National Football League -- to be able to move laterally with great efficiency and be able to sit down any bull rush without comprising my position to move in and out on the line of scrimmage."