When Pennsbury High School graduate Troy Vincent roamed the defensive backfield for the Eagles in the 1990s, no one played the position any tougher.
But when Vincent, now the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, appeared on ESPN’s “First Take’’ show on Thursday morning, there were tears in his eyes and he was clearly shaken.
Vincent was on the program to discuss what might happen with the upcoming, proposed NFL season in light of Wednesday’s boycott by NBA players over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
The NBA decided to call off all of its Wednesday games, though ESPN reported the games could resume as soon as Friday.
Vincent had difficulty controlling his emotions as he spoke to show host Keyshawn Johnson.
“This (shooting of young Black men by police) has got to end,’’ said Vincent, who, with his wife, Tommi, have three sons and two daughters.
Vincent, 50, praised the courage of the NBA and WNBA players, among others, who chose to take a stand by not playing.
“I’m so proud of these young boys, these young men and women … they did things I didn’t think about doing (as a player),’’ Vincent said.
Vincent spent parts of eight seasons with the Eagles (1996-2003). He also played for the Miami Dolphins, who took him seventh overall in the 1992 NFL Draft, plus Washington and Buffalo Bills.
He’s been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame each year since he became eligible in 2012.
Vincent’s voice cracked when he talked about his own family.
“We thought we had a handle on this (police behavior) but obviously we didn’t,’’ Vincent said. “But when I saw (Los Angeles Clippers coach) Doc Rivers, LeBron (James), George Hill (of the Milwaukee Bucks), I think about my three boys (Troy Jr., Taron, Tanner).
“I have a 22-year-old and a 20-year-old and a 15-year-old that I’m trying to prevent from being hunted.’’
Right now, there’s no telling what impact Wednesday’s display of solidarity will have on the entire professional sports scene.
“I’m proud of what the guys and the women are doing,’’ Vincent reiterated. “As we would say, you’re going to find that unified people always defeat unified money.’’
What might happen with the NFL? Could there be a similar reaction, with players refusing to play?
“If we’re not expecting this,’’ Vincent said, “then we’re not living in reality. We have to extend the conversation to those who have influence to change these policies.
“I think it’s finding that common agreement. It starts with our ‘Black Lives Matter’ don’t matter any more or less than anybody else. Second, we have to agree that the shooting and killing of Black men and women are crimes and that people have to be held accountable.
“If we can’t have that conversation, those two points are non-negotiable. If we don’t believe these (protests) are going to extend, they’re already happening.’’
Vincent, who played college football for the University of Wisconsin and is quite familiar with Wisconsin politics, pointed out that NFL teams are already taking action. The Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets called off their daily training sessions.
“We just have so much work to do,’’ Vincent said.
How important is it to have all of the powerful NFL owners join the cause?
“Full transparency, many of them are (on board) but many of them aren’t,’’ Vincent said. “We need your influence as an owner to help bridge the gap for us. We need you to talk to the DA (district attorney). We need to have conversations with local officials.
“We need you to address police reform.’’