one on one - Mark his words: Mark Vincent
by Rob Sherrell
You played for three years at SMU. Then just before
your senior year, the NCAA started their investigation
that led to the death penalty. So you decided to
finish your career at UGA. Tell us about that.
Well, if anybody should’ve gotten it, it should’ve been Penn St. vs us. We got accused of paying players. They had an administrative nightmare up there. The NCAA will never give the death penalty again. SMU is still feeling the effects of that….I’m one of the lucky people. God blessed me. That ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. I was able to transfer to Georgia and experience the SEC environment
and the loyalty that the fan base has, and the fervor with which they back the program. It’s a way of life down there.
Other than my two children, it’s the best thing
that ever happened to me.
Well you certainly developed a love for UGA. How’d you
love playing for Coach Dooley?
Let me tell you something about Coach Dooley. My wife
died a few months ago from cancer. And she fought it for six
years. I have an 11-year-old and 10-year-old boy. I hadn’t
talked to Coach Dooley in ten years. I maybe saw him once at
the Letterman’s tailgate. Let me tell you something, it wasn’t
48 hours after my wife died that Coach Dooley called me four
times in one day. I was tied up in meetings all day. So he left
me messages every time. That’s why I love the University of
Georgia. That’s what it’s all about. It wasn’t one phone call
and leave a message. But he makes four phone calls, leaving
voice mails and giving me numbers of where to call him back
as soon as I got the message. And when I talked to him, he
couldn’t have been more gracious. He didn’t want to talk football,
this was all about my family. I didn’t tell anyone my wife
died. Somehow he found out. He took the time to track me
down and make sure I called him. I was just blown away.
That’s what impresses me about the University of Georgia.
Can you compare your time at SMU to your time at UGA?
SMU was fun. I love SMU. I live in Dallas. But the Univeristy
of Georgia has a special place in my heart because of
the uniqueness of the good people. I want my kids to go there.
I even married a southern woman, though she was from Alabama.
SMU is in the middle of Dallas. There’s the Cowboys,
the Mavericks, the Rangers….and SMU gets sort of lost in the
shuffle a little bit. When we were ranked #2 in the country, we
had trouble getting 30,000 people in the stands. At UGA, it’s
not like that. SEC fans are just different.
Looking back, how much does it mean to play for
a program that you’ve grown to love so much?
I was sitting in the Stadium for the Ole Miss game with
my two kids, and I was just honored to tell them "I played on
that field right there.” I know that sounds stupid. But the older
you get, the more you appreciate what UGA provides as an
opportunity for kids. Whether you start four years or one year
like I did, it is a wonderful place. And I hate to see these kids
throw these opportunities away by being stupid. They’re
blessed to be able to have that opportunity. It is just fun. I’m
watching my kid at batting practice right now and he’s got a
Georgia shirt on. I just can’t tell you. When I was in Athens for
Ole Miss, I just felt good. I felt at home, which is weird for
only being there a year. That’s a cool feeling, you know? SMU?
I love it. But I told my kids there are people in Winnebegos
that show up in Athens on Wednesday and Thursday. They
couldn’t believe it.
Well you were talking about kids blowing opportunities.
It seems a lot of kids get in trouble nowadays.
Can you compare it to when you played? I don’t know
how Mark Richt runs his program. You know he seems like a
great coach. He wins a lot of games and seems like a great
Christian. But nobody got in trouble with Coach Dooley. He
instilled a TEAM/me philosophy. You just felt honored to walk
out on a football field. You knew people cared so much about the
football team that you wanted to do extra well. I mean you felt an
obligation to be prepared and play well. My kids got to experinece
that at the game. With the fan base and the interest in it, it was neat
watching my kids watch the game.
I’ve talked to people you played with. You started all 12
game and lead the team in picks that year. You were considered
one of the team leaders. How do you become a leader when you were only
there for 12 months? Luckily, I was mature. I was a
fifth year senior and had started two years at another program.
I had played in some big games. Ben Smith played oppostite
corner of me. A lot of people were skeptical about a guy coming
in from SMU. And the only way you earn respect is by
working hard, doing your job, and making plays. Over the
course of the spring and summer, I just felt so privledged and
was smart enough to take advantage of the situation. I
dropped about five or six balls that should’ve been intercepted.
That’s why I played defensive back and not receiver. Back then
you got a Junkyard Dog Patch for big games. After I picked
two against Ole Miss, I got one. I felt honored by that. I don’t
think I was looked at as a leader until the last half of the season
because you have to earn stuff.
As far as transferring from SMU, did everyone end
up as lucky as you? There were some guys that went to
UCLA that had great experiences, but the majority of the guys
that transferred from the death penalty did not. I am one of the
lucky ones. I am so fortunate to tell people I was the starting
cornerback at UGA. Though they all think I played linebacker.
And again, 25 years after the fact, Coach Dooley tracks me
down after he found out my wife died. That epidomizes how
he feels about his players. It’s not all about wins and losses. He
cares about people that he coached. That’s what it’s all about.
UGA is the bomb!
Well, we compared the two schools you played at,
now let’s compare the coeds.
No comparison. None at all. I mean if you go out after a
game in SMU, they may not even know there was a game. And
if they did know they, they ask who won. I mean the SMU
girls were nice, but the southern women just have a charm
about them. There’s a bunch of good looking women in
Athens, GA…..They’re beautiful, nice, and down to earth. Plus,
they watch the football games.
As someone that was actually part of it, I assume
you saw ESPN 30 for 30 about the SMU program. What
was your opinion of it and how accurate was it?
Well, it was fairly accurate. I was actually in that. I was in
the background getting interviewed and things. It’s sort of like
the traffic comparison I like to make. If several cars are speeding
together then why do you want to pull me over? But we
got caught. I didn’t get paid. I started for two years there. Most
of the guys I knew didn’t get paid. I think toward the end they
started trying to clean it up. At the end I think there were
about seven or eight guys getting paid. You know if you read
everything, Governor Clements decided we were going to
honor our commitment to those guys, but we weren’t doing
it anymore. There were a lot of boosters with a lot of money
throwing it around. But then again, everyone in the SWC was
doing it. Guys knew about it. Didn’t talk about it. Some guys
got disgruntled because they saw other people getting paid
and they weren’t. Luckily my name was never associated with
any of that. But from 1984 to 1989, if you looked at the teams
in the SWC that got put on probation, it was damn near every
one of them.
You ended up going to law school at SMU after you
finished your year at UGA. What kind of void was that
to go back to that campus with no football after you
had spent three years giving it your all? I did. I had a
girlfriend at UGA and really seriously considered going to law
school in Athens. But my family was here in Dallas. But I always
wondered what it would’ve been like to go to law school
in Athens and end up practicing in the Atlanta area. But they
gave SMU the death penalty in ‘87. I came back in ’88. But I
had a girlfriend at UGA, so I was spending most of my time
in Athens. And Georgia was my team at the time. So, I was
just lucky because I had a team that I could follow instead of
having that void. And SMU now, with the current administration
they have now, I don’t know if they’ll ever get back to
being a national powerhouse.
I know I saw in the Texas Monthly magazine that
you were listed as one of the 40 Super Lawyers in the
State. Does that mean you have some sort of super
powers and, if not, what super powers would you like
HAHA! I wish I’d had the super power to see the future
and not let Georgia get beat by South Carolina. You know, that
deal is an honor because you get voted on by your peers. So
it’s an honor in one respect, but it’s a gimmick in another. The
magazine wants you to advertise your firm. Basically, the person
that spends the most money gets on the front page. But
again, it’s voted by your peers and I’ve been selected for several
years now. So, I’m proud of that fact. The super power I
would like to have is to allow Aaron Murray to throw for 500
yards against Alabama if we get to play them.
I read an article on line about you a couple years
ago. You were named one of UGA’s Greatest One Hit
Wonders. Basically it was the five best players that only
played one year for UGA for whatever reason. How
good does it feel to be right up there with Nena’s 99
Luft Balloons and Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ Come On
You know, I had never seen that article and one of my law
partners found that on the internet and showed it to me. So
my secretay contacted the guy that wrote it, and he sent me the
article. I’ve got it framed in my office. I’m actually real proud
of that. To be able to come in and have a positive effect on the
program; I’m very proud. You know a lot of guys give me a
hard time about it. But my response to them is "Well Hickey,
where’s your article? If someone wrote an article about you
it’d be on your screen saver. I mean some guy 22, 23 years
after you played writes an article about you? I mean I was a
good player. I knew I’d never play on Sundays. It’s thrilling actually.
It makes you feel good.