It was one of the more entertaining games in recent history, one seemingly everyone on twitter likened to a Big 12 Football game - and for good reason, as nearly every offensive record was smashed by the end of the third quarter. And it wouldn’t have happened without a big time assist from Big V, the TCU graduate and Eagles’ starting left tackle.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who entered TCU in 2012 as a three star tackle, made five appearances in his first season and would go on to start 30 games for the Frogs. Voted second team all Big 12 in his junior and senior seasons, Vaitai was invited to the NFL Combine, where he impressed enough to be the Eagles’ fifth round draft pick.
Vaitai arrived in Philly as the backup to All-Pro Jason Peters, one of the very best at his position in the entire NFL. He played ten games in 2016 when Lane Johnson served a ten game suspension, and an injury to Peters this season forced the massive LT into action in week seven. He has more than delivered in starting every game since.
“It’s a crazy journey I have been on,” Vaitai said. “I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to TCU. I didn’t think I would make it to the NFL. I went because TCU has a great education. I tried to take advantage of that. I got my opportunity and they said you can do this. And now I’m here.”
Vaitai was nails for the Eagles Sunday night, helping to keep Nick Foles upright throughout the night, as the team did not surrender a single sack. He even earned praise from long time broadcaster Cris Collinsworth, who said his improvement over the last month is as impressive as any trajectory he has seen:
When you get a #SuperBowl shoutout from @CollinsworthPFF… #WhyTCU pic.twitter.com/P8fWW74Pf1— Frogs O' War (@FrogsOWar) February 5, 2018
The Eagles piled up over 500 yards of total offense, 25 first downs, and averaged better than 7.5 yards per play on their way to a 41-33 victory, and the offensive line as a whole was a big part of their success on that side of the ball.
Now, Big V, as he is affectionately known going back to his days in Fort Worth, is a Super Bowl Champion, helping bring the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia for the first time - though he did have to beat out another Horned Frog (the Patriots’ Marcus Cannon) for the hardware. Somehow, I doubt he feels too badly as he joins some outstanding company.
.@TCU74 is the 8th different Horned Frog on a Super Bowl championship team in the last 12 years. Big V is also now one of 20 Horned Frogs to earn a Super Bowl championship ring. https://t.co/AbA8igi0q5— Mark Cohen (@TCUCohen) February 5, 2018
Congrats, Big V!