The Wolfpacker

January-February 2024

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2024 ■ 47 Next fall, Fernandus II will enroll at NC State to pursue a degree in account- ing. Finding Solutions A little more than two years ago, Vin- son founded Restorative Therapeutic Counseling, based in Fayetteville, the town where he settled after a four-year NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He helps clients overcome mental and emotional issues related to trauma, anxi- ety, depression and relationship issues, showing the kind of empathy and soft touch that he rarely displayed when he was part of one of the best secondaries in school history with All-America free safety Jesse Campbell and cornerbacks Joe Johnson and Sebastian Savage. "What is rewarding is that people come to me at the lowest points of their lives, when they are in mental and emo- tional distress, and we are able to find solutions," Vinson said. "They just need help. It's humbling that they trust me to help them work those things out." He's helped numerous people through the years, but one young woman sticks out as the most memorable. "She had experienced a lot of trauma in her life," Vinson said. "She was to- tally lost, and on the verge of wanting to kill herself. I was able to work with her and help her see her self-worth, to take some of what she was carrying off her shoulders." It was a confidence-building interac- tion for Vinson and a potentially life- saving situation for her. "Because of her, I am a totally different therapist," Vinson said. "She taught me so much, while I was trying to help her." The client recently opened her own yoga and aerobics studio in Fayetteville. "She is doing outstanding," Vinson said. A native of Montgomery, Ala., Vinson was a lightly recruited defensive back out of George Washington Carver High School, where he was once a teammate of Aundray Bruce, the Auburn All-America linebacker who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft. The SEC power also offered Vinson a scholarship, but he and his mother wanted him to leave his home state to attend college. Fortunately for NC State, newly hired coach Dick Sheridan had brought Alabama native Joe Pate aboard as a defensive assistant when he arrived in 1986. Pate graduated from the University of Alabama and was a high school coach in the state for years, so he was well-con- nected to other coaches. He frequently recruited the area for Sheridan and suc- cessors Mike O'Cain and Chuck Amato. Vinson came to Raleigh, as part of Sheridan's second recruiting class. "Fernandus was the first really, really good player we got from down there," Pate said. "Once he came here, it be- came easier to bring others. Most years we could get one or two players from down there." Pate later became the primary re- cruiter for two other highly successful players from Alabama, Philip Rivers and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, for Am- ato in 2000. A Defensive Force The punishing 5-foot-10, 195-pound Vinson played sparingly in his fresh- man season but stepped into the starting lineup along with freshman Campbell and sophomore Johnson in 1988. For the next three years, the Wolfpack had na- tionally ranked defenses and made three bowl games. While Campbell set the school's career record with 15 fumbles caused, Vinson set the record for the most fumbles re- covered with 7. Vinson also had 10 career interceptions, a total that ranks sixth in school history. As a senior, Vinson was NC State's leading tackler with 109 stops. The Wolf- pack was ranked in the top 10 nationally in fewest points (14.7) and fewest total yards (277.6) allowed per game, boast- ing shutouts against Appalachian State, Western Carolina and Duke. Vinson, Campbell and Johnson were all on the first- or second-team All-ACC squads. Vinson concluded his career in his home state, helping the Wolfpack end Southern Mississippi quarterback Brett Favre's college career with a 31-27 vic- tory in the All-American Bowl in Bir- mingham. "This is the best secondary I've ever faced," Favre said before the game. Following the season, Vinson was taken in the seventh round of the 1991 NFL Draft by Cincinnati, the 184th over- all pick. Over the next four seasons, he started 15 of 58 games for the Bengals. During his time in Cincinnati, he met and married his wife and began looking for a post-football career. He moved to Fayetteville in 2002 to go into business in three group homes with former team- mate Charles Davenport. While Vinson was pursuing his aca- demic career and opening his counsel- ing practice, Davenport opened his own foster care agency. Now, Vinson is looking forward to fin- ishing the final 18 months of his 15-year quest for counseling credentials. ■ FERNANDUS "SNAKE" VINSON FOOTBALL (1987-90) Age: 55 Living: Fayetteville, N.C. Occupation: Founder of Restorative Therapeu- tic Counseling Did you know? Vinson got his unique nickname at the age of 6, and it was not a compliment. He started out at tailback as a peewee football player and avoided tacklers the way ACC runners even- tually learned to avoid him and teammate Jesse Campbell, two of the best safeties in Wolfpack football history. "I didn't like to get hit," Vinson said. "My coach said, 'Stop running like a snake and run like I told you.'" The nickname stuck. Tim Peeler is a regular contributor to The Wolfpacker and can be reached at Founder of Restorative Therapeutic Counseling in Fayetteville, N.C., Vinson helps clients overcome mental and emotional issues related to trauma, anxiety, depression and relationship issues. PHOTO COURTESY FERNANDUS VINSON

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