On Nov. 27, 2017, Thomas Viglianco received a letter and a T-shirt in the mail. The letter thanked Viglianco for being more than just a basketball skills coach, but also a life skills coach for the certain individual.
“There’s no question that I learned a lot of basketball from you,” the letter stated. “But I also learned a lot from you about how to go after a dream.”
The player who wrote the letter was Noah Vedral.
Got a special letter from my QB & dear friend Noah Vedral @Noah11_V today. This is what life is truly about… U & UR family have been with me for 3+ years! A lot of special times, hard work & happy tears! Proud of U! Go get a W this wknd for #UCF 🏉 pic.twitter.com/uFGDF6ChdU
— Thomas Viglianco (@VigliancoHoops) November 27, 2017
Vedral is a sophomore quarterback from Wahoo, Neb. He originally committed to Central Florida and played for coach Scott Frost and the Knights as a freshman in 2017. When Frost accepted the Nebraska job in December, Vedral soon decided to follow Frost home.
And Viglianco knew just how much the decision meant to Vedral.
“Noah could have stayed at Central Florida. There were other opportunities coming up for sure, but he clearly came back because Scott Frost wanted him to,” Viglianco told Land of 10. “Noah is too much of a competitor and too much of a winner to be like, ‘OK, you may not want me but I think I’ll just come hang out for a few years.’
“He only came back because he knows he has a chance to be a starter and because Scott Frost wanted him to.”
*** *** ***
The story of how Viglianco ended up in Lincoln — and working with Vedral — isn’t a typical one. In fact, a lot of how the Alabama native found himself smack dab in the middle of the country was simply happenstance. A close friend growing up in Alabama was living in Lincoln, Neb., and the rest was really history.
“After my first pro season in Italy, a friend of mine was living in Lincoln,” Viglianco said. “He told me I should come out for the summer. I joked, ‘For what?’ But I said I’d come out there if he knew anyone I could do an internship with at a financial company because I have a business degree. He knew a guy, so I came out that summer for about two and half months and worked. I did my own workouts at night to keep training and stay in shape.
“He then left for Las Vegas that following summer, so I was going to go back to Alabama after my second pro season but the guy I was working for told me to come back to Lincoln. That’s sort of how it happened, because I just kept coming back every summer.”
Enter Viglianco Hoops.
Viglianco — who played college basketball for William & Mary and then nine professional seasons in Europe — is now a player development coach and mentor for middle school, high school, college and professional basketball players.
And much like how Viglianco ended up in Nebraska, Viglianco Hoops was also born out of happenstance. While Viglianco was in Nebraska one summer, he was approached by a woman to help her son and another young boy with their basketball skills. Viglianco had previously done camps, but wasn’t yet in the training business. Despite that, he agreed to help the two kids. That caught the attention of others, and the inquiries took off.
“It went from a fun thing to do to help out kids and it turned into a business,” Viglianco said.
*** *** ***
When Viglianco first met Vedral, he immediately thought the Wahoo (Neb.) native could play Division I basketball if he wanted. Viglianco also immediately clicked with Vedral’s father, so it was an easy relationship with both from the get-go.
Plus, Viglianco prides himself on being more than just a basketball coach for the youth he works with. That was no different with Vedral.
“Noah came in for workouts for almost two and a half years, and we got really close,” Viglianco said. “I don’t really even know how to say it, but I don’t just do basketball. It’s a lot of life lessons and life skills. I’ll talk with kids about how their tests went, about ACTs and all that stuff. I truly invest in life outside of basketball. With Noah, it was almost like a breakdown of how to attack everything.”
And the future wasn’t always a simple answer for Vedral.
“It seemed to me like people doubted him because he was a small-town kid,” Viglianco said. “Ever since I met him, he’s always had that chip on his shoulder that he knew he was good enough, he was going to work his butt off and no one would take that from him. With the whole quarterback stuff, it was always, ‘He’s good, but is he good enough?’ For me — and while we’d talk about basketball, we’d talk about football, too — we’d have a lot of heartfelt talks about it. I’d tell him he is good enough.
“This is how it usually happens. People will doubt you because you’re not a 4-star or a 5-star, or because you’re a small-town kid. But his work ethic is one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”
While he wasn’t offered a scholarship to play for Nebraska out of high school, Vedral was offered a scholarship to play for Frost at UCF. What the Huskers didn’t see then, Frost did. Viglianco did, too.
Vedral went on to complete 22 of 29 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown during the 2017 season with UCF. He played in eight games in relief of UCF starter McKenzie Milton.
None of that came as a surprise to Viglianco, who expects to see similar results from Vedral at Nebraska. While NCAA transfer rules currently require him to sit out the 2018 season — which could change this summer, depending on a vote — Viglianco believes Vedral will put himself in contention for a starting role when able.
“People have doubted him for so long,” Viglianco said. “They’ve said, ‘Yeah, you’re good but you’re not that good.’ That inner drive for him comes from that continuous idea that he’s not good enough and that is enough to push him to compete for the starting job at Nebraska. I’m excited to see for sure, because I know if he ends up as the backup, whoever is starting is going to be damn good.”
*** *** ***
Viglianco met up with Vedral in December. He was in Orlando, Fla., so it gave the two an opportunity to get together and catch up. And in doing so, Viglianco saw the same Vedral he’s always known: a fierce competitor.
“I took him out to eat and spent some good time with him,” Viglianco said. “He is so far ahead of the curve because he is such a smart kid. That’s why I don’t think people truly grasp how smart of a player he is. He wants to be a coach someday. He’s a year ahead of all of these guys already because he’s spent a year in Frost’s system.”
Viglianco thinks back on the days he’d spend with Vedral the spring of his senior high school season. Vedral would come to work out and then hurry home to study the pieces of material he was allowed to have from Central Florida to review.
It’s that attention to detail that makes Vedral an especially strong player. It’s why Viglianco found a letter and T-shirt in the mail in late November. Vedral isn’t one to forget, and he’s especially not one to slack off.
Those are traits that Viglianco has no doubt Nebraska will enjoy just as much as Central Florida did.
“He’s going to soak it all in,” Viglianco said. “He’s such a good kid, he works his butt off, and he’s going to be a huge positive for the team.”
Special day for @Noah11_V continuing his 🏉 career at @HuskerFBNation Young man has made many adult like decisions at an early age. Testament to his upbringing, work ethic & belief in himself! Very excited to have my dear friend back!! Much love @ECspeaks for the Husker edit pic.twitter.com/XUfrtVpWAz
— Thomas Viglianco (@VigliancoHoops) January 9, 2018