Kenny Vaccaro has speed, he has power, he has intelligence. Perhaps most of all, he has perspective. The Brownwood defensive back and 2009 Texas commit is helping his mother raise five kids and has gained an appreciation for the opportunity he has in front of him. Inside Texas traveled to Brownwood, Tex. and met with Vaccaro to talk about his life, on and off the field.
“Crazy,” Kenny Vaccaro told Inside Texas. “It is crazy.”
That’s the best way to describe life at home for the Texas defensive back commit. With just his mother and a bundle of younger siblings, Vaccaro has learned a great deal of maturity at a young age. He’s also had to learn how to communicate and work through problems, which isn’t always easy.
“Me and my mom had a rough time. It’s me and her five kids. We’ve bumped heads,” said Vaccaro.
But despite the bumps in the road, Vaccaro said his mother, Alisha, has always been right by his side to help him reach his goals.
“She’s always been there for me and helped me with all my college stuff,” said Vaccaro. “She always got me what I needed, even when we didn’t have the money.”
That struggle has been hard, but it’s steeled in Vaccaro a resolve to become one of the few members of his family to go to college, a dream he’ll achieve when he enrolls at the University of Texas next year. It’s also given him perspective on the opportunity he’s been presented with.
“I need to be humble and appreciate that because some people have to pay for (college) and it makes me feel so lucky,” Vaccaro told Inside Texas. “People at my school will say, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky.’ It makes me realize they’re going to have to try to get an academic scholarship and pay for it and get grants and I’m sitting here with a full ride.”
Vaccaro is also hoping he can use this opportunity to be a model for his younger siblings. He’s got quite a few to be a model to and ever since his father died, Vaccaro’s had to take a more prominent role and his siblings have drawn closer to him because of it.
“I’ve got brothers and sisters always around me and always looking up to me and everything I do they mimic,” said Vaccaro.
It’s a crowded home and it’s not always smiles, but Vaccaro said he’s always been able to make it through the tough times.
“I just deal with it. We fight a lot, but I just remember they’re my family and I love ’em,” said Vaccaro.
Also aiding he and his mother in their journey is the town of Brownwood itself. The community has not only helped him make it through, but its also helped him stay focused on the future.
“This town is real connected and they’ve really helped me and (Brownwood head) coach (Steve) Freeman has helped me and all my coaches have. I’m not going wild and doing stupid things. I’m making sure I’ve got my mind set on the right things. I’m trying to keep my grade point average high.”
Apparently keeping his grade point average high hasn’t been a problem. Vaccaro has a GPA of 3.5 and it’s a mark he told IT he’s “disappointed” with, saying he knows it could be even higher.
He’s done well off the field and his exploits on it have grabbed him a great deal of attention. Last season, Vaccaro posted 110 tackles and 7 INT’s as a junior, earning first team all 16-4A honors along with first team All-Big Country and Honorable Mention All-State. The numbers he accumulated were impressive, but Vaccaro said the best thing he brings to a team is making those plays at the right time.
“I have no problem with everybody counting on me,” said Vaccaro. “Before the Copperas Cove game, Coach said, ‘If you don’t do something, we ain’t going to win.’”
Well, Vaccaro certainly did something, racking up 13 tackles, one INT and one blocked kick in the 17-10 victory. The game also gave him clarity. He felt at ease in a high pressure situation and knew he could bring that to the collegiate level and perhaps beyond.
“I was just so in the zone. I felt like this is what I was meant to do. I was meant to play football,” said Vaccaro.
For Freeman, it’s easy for him to see why the 6-1, 190-pound DB excels the way he does.
“The intensity,” said Freeman. “I’ve been around just a few players in my 24 years (as a coach) that it all comes together at the right time. I tell you, there’s not much touching the ground when Kenny makes impact. Very physical. He’s a good-looking kid, he’s put together well, but I’ve seen a lot of kids like that. His impact, he just puts it together at the right time.”
Freeman said much of that ability on the field comes from Vaccaro’s work ethic.
“I’ve seen Kenny get home from a road trip late at night and be involved in power-lifting early the next morning. There’s a commitment level he understands,” said Freeman.
That commitment is always there for football and it’s always there for his family as well. Vaccaro will take the lessons life has taught him on to college and, maybe someday, he’ll be able to teach those lessons to his own children, if he has a family of his own.
“I want to be a loving, caring father and make sure I do everything for my family and do it like my mom did,” said Vaccaro. “If there’s a chance for my son to be a D-I athlete, then I’ll let him know to take advantage of that chance because he’ll appreciate it in the long run, like my mom says to me.”
Vaccaro said he doesn’t plan on pushing his kids into athletics, but will guide them along if that’s the path they choose. What’s much more important to him is that he’ll be there for them, whatever their lives may bring.
“Make sure I’m there, always. Make sure my family is loved,” said Vaccaro.
But that is far in future. For now, he’s got a family at home to help care for and a Longhorn family waiting for him in Austin.
Members Only Information on Kenny Vaccaro:
Vaccaro has played almost entirely on defense for Brownwood and was told by Texas head coach Mack Brown he was being recruited as a safety. However, as happens, there’s disagreement on the coaching staff because one of the offensive coaches wants to put his talents to use at another position, a different position from the one he’ll be starting at on offense for Brownwood during his senior season. And how did the Horns secure his commitment in the first place? – Members Only: The Multi-Talented Kenny Vaccaro