Jaguars starting cornerback Vicente Stafford loves hitting wide receivers, crunching running backs and smiling like Minnie Mouse – just not all at the same place. He’s a tough defender on the gridiron, but a tender father to his one-year-old daughter, Kylie.
Having a child causes many young men to drop out of school to support their new family, but 22-year-old Stafford said he is more inspired than ever to press on with his studies instead of dropping into a prevent defense.
“She’s my drive to do everything,” he said with his ever-present smile. “If I didn’t have her, it would be easy to fall off course, but I know I have to stay positive and do positive things to make her future better.”
Stafford enrolled at SWC in the fall of 2011, though he did not play for the Jags until the 2013 season. He is a declared liberal arts major, but he wants to study psychology.
“I just want to get my AA degree and move on to [a university]to play football and still have an opportunity to fulfill my dreams,” he said.
Unfortunately, the highest level Stafford can play football is Division II because he lost his Division I eligibility. A Division I student-athlete has five calendar years from initial enrollment in a two- or four-year school to compete for up to four years. Stafford is already in the fifth and final year of his Division I clock.
In 2009 he graduated from Granite Hills High School and attended San Diego Mesa College that fall. He played five games for the Olympians before suffering a season-ending injury.
“It was my ankle,” he said as his grin flickered for a split second. “I was making a tackle and this big guy fell on it. I tore my tendons, a few ligaments and separated my tibia and fibula. I had to have three surgeries. I’ve never been hurt before so it took me off course a little bit. Then I started running into the trials and tribulations of life.”
Stafford finished the year at Mesa and withdrew from school. He spent the next year working and recovering from the injury. After enrolling at SWC he found out that he was going to be a father.
“[Having a child is] no added pressure at all,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”
Head football coach Ed Carberry supports his 5’10”, 180 lbs. corner’s path to redemption.
“He’s the kind of guy that a community college is there for,” Carberry said. “Not just in football, but in school. [Community colleges] give people an opportunity to reshape their lives.”
Wide receiver Jason Gaines said he also believes in Stafford.
“For him being out here, being so old and having a family, a lot of young guys look up to him,” said Gaines. “We wouldn’t imagine ourselves doing that at such a young age and he’s out here doing that, feeding his family and going to school at the same time, so a lot of people really do look up to him for that.”
Stafford credits football for teaching him the most important skill a parent can have.
“Patience,” he said. “Out here you can know what you’re doing, but if you’re not patient about it, if you don’t wait until it actually happens, either it can go really good or really bad. It’s the same way with parenting.”
Stafford is the first person to admit that he has not always been an ideal student.
“I was lazy, very lazy,” he said. “Barely going to class lazy.”
His daughter’s birth kicked his focus into high gear. He said he does not want to be a hypocrite in Kylie’s eyes.
“I don’t want to tell her to do something and I’m not doing it for myself,” he said. “I wouldn’t be on her like ‘you gotta stay in school, you gotta do your grades, you gotta do this’ and I’m not doing it myself.”
Stafford and Kylie’s mother, Bree Albrektsen, a member of SWC’s softball team, bring their daughter campus daily.
“I’m kinda happy she’s always on campus with me,” he said, his signature smile growing to a size that would have made Minnie Mouse, Kylie’s favorite cartoon character, jealous. “She doesn’t understand it, but no matter what it’s a picture in her head that she’ll remember. Hopefully she’ll go on and do the same thing – go to college.”
He looked over at Kylie’s stroller and smiled again.
“Education is everything.”