In 2007, a then-nine year old Vincent Emanuele and his family moved from Pittsburgh to Rock Hill. Emanuele understandably found the transition difficult, but his father, Joseph, offered him a piece of advice that has come to define his now burgeoning football career.
"I told my son that you will be the new kid at school, and you might be tested by the other kids," said Joseph, himself a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan. "So if that's the case, you make sure to Troy Polamalu them and earn your place."
Emanuele heeded his father's words, and immediately garnered the respect of his peers. And now, the 12 year old hard-nosed quarterback has been selected to play in the Eastbay Youth All-American Bowl in January. The game in San Antonio, Texas, honors the top 7th grade players in the nation. Emanuele will be welcomed as the first player from South Carolina to participate.
As a member of the AYF (American Youth Football) Rock Hill Cowboys, it was former coach Tom Richardson that suggested Emanuele try the quarterback position. Emanuele thrived in the 25 games since that decision, scoring 62 touchdowns and leading the Cowboys to a 16-1 record in 2010. Though his teammates compare Emanuele's size and athleticism to former Florida Gator great QB Tim Tebow (he even wears No.15), Emanuele models his game after another iconic player.
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"My favorite player is Ben Roethlisberger because he isn't afraid to move outside of the pocket to buy time," Emanuele said. "He is a player that leads by example on the field, and the whole team responds to it. I try to do the same when I play."
A current student at Rawlinson Middle School, which sits snugly in the Northwestern school district, Emanuele also admires Justin Worley for his leadership and championship pedigree.
But according to the former fullback, he wouldn't have taken his game to the next level without one key inspiration in his life.
"I really couldn't have accomplished what I have done without Coach J," said Emanuele, referring to Cowboys coach and former South Pointe player Dennis Clayton Currence II. "I never thought I'd play quarterback, but I've done pretty well because he constantly challenged me and worked on my fundamentals."
For his proud father, seeing Emanuele progress from a transplanted Pittsburgh youth to talented athlete wasn't a surprise, given his upbringing.
"When he was born, his crib had a Terrible Towel and a football in it," said Joseph Emanuele with a laugh. "When other kids were watching Sesame Street, Vinny was playing football and watching the NFL network. He's surpassed every expectation of him that I've ever had."