Vince Mayle was ready to play basketball for the rest of his life. Then something happened.
He met competition. Stiff, athletic, freaky-good competition, at Shasta College, and he realized that 6-foot-3 power players have a short shelf life.
Now he’s a football player with a new lease on life.
Mayle’s path has taken him from Inderkum High School in Natomas to the mountains of Redding, to community college in Rocklin, to the Palouse at Washington State. He’s found that 6-3 wide receivers with 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash – and seemingly even quicker in the open field – fit just fine in coach Mike Leach’s wide-open Air Raid offense at WSU.
Mayle rediscovered his football stride in 2013, catching five touchdown passes in a six-game stretch with the sort of burst and body that suddenly has him on the NFL draft radar. Mayle, however, was hoping for an extra season of seasoning, a bit of good fortune, and caught it. Mayle’s waiver for an extra year of eligibility was approved by the NCAA, so he heads back to Pullman, Wash., today from Sacramento to rev up for another crack at the Pacific-12 Conference.
“I’m really excited,” Mayle said recently in his old high school gym. “It’s so good to be back in football. It’s the right sport for me.”
Mayle thought basketball was his ticket to an education. He averaged eight points for Shasta College in 2009-10, which started his NCAA eligibility clock, hence the recent waiver. He won a dunk contest at Shasta, but he didn’t always have a clear path to the rim in games, unless he ran over people.
“I thought I was going to be the next John Wall,” Mayle said. “At least I gave it a try.”
Mayle left Shasta after that season, taking a break from athletics, which pained him, and from school.
“I needed to deal with family issues at home, and the time away helped me grow up,” he said.
Mayle still burned to compete. He approached then-Sierra College coach Jeff Tisdel to restart his football career in 2012. But where to put him? At 240 pounds, was Mayle a defensive end, a linebacker, a wide receiver, a tight end? He settled in at wide receiver, earning All-America honors after catching 61 passes for 984 yards.
Mayle accepted a scholarship to WSU, yielding to the charm of Leach and his offensive schemes. Ohio State, Miami and West Virginia also sought Mayle.
“Tisdel was great for me,” Mayle said. “He challenged me, pushed me. One day, I dropped four passes in practice, and he benched me. Then I caught four touchdowns in a game, and I never looked back.”
Mayle also worked on his body at WSU. He shed weight and altered his diet. He’s down to 225 pounds. When he ran into friends, they hardly recognized the new look.
“I saw him and said, ‘Wow! Where did you go? You look great,’ ” Inderkum assistant football coach Terrance Leonard said. “He’s worked so hard to get here.”
Inderkum athletic director Matt Hinton said Mayle is proof of the power of perseverance.
“Sometimes,” he said, “you have to take a different path to get where you want to go.”
High on Hudson – LaDon Hudson from Inderkum said Division I is every teenager’s athletic dream, but going the small-college route works, too. He’s an example.
Hudson played at American River College and became a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-America tight end at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, Hudson is preparing for an NFL pro-day workout in the coming weeks.
“It’s worked out fine for me and a lot of others,” Hudson said of the small-college route. “You make the best of it, and do something with it, and I have. I’m excited about my future.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.