Not that long ago, Taron Vincent was the No. 1 defensive tackle prospect in the nation.

A true freshman in 2018, Vincent worked his way into the defensive line rotation later in the season, even registering a sack against Northwestern in the Big Ten title game.

A shoulder injury cost him the 2019 season and even cut into his 2020 season. He wasn’t fully healthy until the second half of last season.

Time moves slowly rehabbing from injuries, but the anticipation for returning to the field grows each day. Vincent finished last year feeling healthy and had his first full-go offseason since his freshman year.

And with the Buckeyes needing some help up front, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

“I’m in a great head space, physical space, my body feels great, my mind feels great,” Vincent said recently. “I’m just ready to compete finally. I don’t have anything to worry about. My body feels great, I’m just ready to go.”

Without any physical limitations, Vincent has shown in camp what he’s capable of doing when he’s in the lineup.

“Yeah, I’m back to my regular self,” he reiterated. “I was the No. 1 D-tackle for a reason. Finally healthy, I’m just I’m ready to compete and go to work with my guys.”

It’s rare for a player to go through his career without ever dealing with some kind of injury. It’s as much a part of the game as the equipment used to try and combat the injuries.

That was the message Vincent received from his father Troy, a former NFL cornerback who is now an executive for football operations in the NFL

“Injuries are a part of football, that’s what my Pops tells me,” the younger Vincent said. “It’s part of the game. Just gotta deal with it. Get healthy and then prove everybody wrong. If anybody doesn’t think you can bounce back from injury, just prove them wrong, prove them wrong, prove them wrong, that’s all I’ve been doing.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Each day brings its own difficulties, trials, and tests.

That’s why it’s good to have help along the way.

“Mentally, yeah it is hard, but I got the right people in my corner, people I know I can talk to,” Vincent said. “My mom, my dad, my coaches, everybody. Everybody kept me uplifted. Just being around the guys helped me.”

Vincent is an example of what former Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer calls “an energy giver.” Some players are energy takers and they can wear down a coach. The energy givers are the ones who build everyone up, both on the team and on the coaching staff.

Vincent is an energy giver and it helped him deal with setbacks while also staying focused on what’s to come.

“I can’t just be sitting around sulking all day. The sun is gonna keep shining, so that’s how I look at it,” he said.

“I woke up and I’m breathing so I can’t even be mad at it. Not everybody can say they did that today so I’m just grateful.”

But now those injuries are in the past and Vincent is situated firmly in the present.

“My mind and my body. I feel good. I feel strong. I just feel fast. I feel confident,” he said. “I think confidence is a really big thing, just trusting my body and knowing what it can do.”

Without that confidence, nothing else really matters. Every step is a bit slow because there’s a question attached to it. The hands are a little wary because the shoulder is still a concern.

But that is no longer the case for Taron Vincent, and one of the big reasons for that is because of the work of OSU assistant strength coach Kenny Parker.

“I’m gonna be honest, my confidence came from my coach KP,” Vincent said. “I was working with him all in the offseason, just talking to him every day, just him instilling stuff in my mind. It really gave me confidence.”

Now that he is healthy and in line for a significant role in this Ohio State defense, the pressure is on for him to finally live up to his five-star billing.

Or is it?

“I really don’t feel any pressure,” he said. “I feel like it’s just football. It’s time to play. I feel healthy. It’s my time to go, so I’m gonna go. When my time is called, I’m gonna go, so whenever my number is called, I’m gonna go make a play.”

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