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August 24, 2012

Painter Looking for Redemption

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It's his last chance, and he knows it. It's the final opportunity in his collegiate career to put it all together on the field if he even dreams of having a shot to make it to the next level. The hype has always been there. The potential? There's been tons of it.

It is simply time to put up or shut up.

Virginia Tech's Vinston Painter, a monstrous 6-6, 309-pound tackle finally has his shot to shine with the Hokies.

A native of Norfolk, the redshirt senior, who has failed to live up to the hype and receive quality playing time during his first four years for various reasons, is the next guy up to start on the offensive line for Virginia Tech at right tackle.

So far, it seems that he has put forth the work to become the full-time starter. The Hokies need him to produce, as they will feature four new starting offensive linemen this season.

"I know I had to be 100 percent ready and then some, and make sure I'm mentally there, physically ready and just make sure I'm on top of my game," Painter said.

"[There is] definitely more urgency, definitely to make sure I know all my assignments, make sure there is no question in my mind what I'm supposed to do and the coaches don't have to question what I'm supposed to do."

The former four-star recruit played well in Saturday's open scrimmage and again Wednesday, protecting junior quarterback Logan Thomas. Painter showed his ability to provide time for Thomas to throw, while also doing a fair job on run plays.

"I'm definitely feeling pretty good about it, made one mistake on a blitz pickup," Painter said Saturday. "Other than that, I feel like it was a productive day, definitely improved."

If Painter doesn't put it together this season, he will never get the shot again, and he knows that. Last season, he played just 49 offensive snaps.

"It just makes you want to prepare that much harder," said Painter, who was praised by offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring after the scrimmage. "It's making the preparation that much tougher on myself.

"Of course there is definitely some pressure because everyone is like, 'This is only his first year as a starter.' At the same time, you've be waiting, preparing for five years, so it's like 'Finally, it's my time.'"

Painter said he feels that his delay in ascending to the top of the depth chart has been a product of many things, but one sticks out, aside from having quality linemen ahead of him.

"At this level, I've changed positions multiple times," said Painter, who went from defensive tackle shortly after arriving in Blacksburg to right guard in the spring of 2009, before moving to tackle last season.

"It's hard to learn a position within months, especially on the offensive line. The learning curve, from position to position, trying to learn each one within a few months was pretty difficult. Being a tackle for the last two years, it gave me time to sit, get behind [former starting tackle] Blake [DeChristopher], watch him, talk to him, learn from him. I finally had a chance to stick with one position and mentally get it all in."

His improvement, thanks to determination and effort, hasn't gone unnoticed.

"You just see a really, really dedicated guy," Thomas said. "A guy of his stature, his ability, his strength, athleticism, speed, it's scary to see what he can do once he finally puts it all together, and he is starting to put it all together. That is what I'm extremely excited about, seeing what he can do."

Thomas and company hope to see the improving lineman play well all season long, starting with the season opener Sept. 3 at home against Georgia Tech.

"Once it starts clicking, he will be able to shut down any [defensive end] and move anybody off the ball," Thomas said. "A guy like that is awesome to have on your side of the ball. You hope you don't have to go against a guy like that on the other side."

It hasn't been an easy road for the well-spoken senior, venturing from highly touted prep player to afterthought, to starter. It's been unbearable at times for Painter. But he never thought about giving up. When wondering if he would ever have his chance, if it would be better to just to leave the program, Painter recalled a very important life lesson.

"Both of my parents, mom, dad and my old high school coach, they always stayed in my mind, taught me never to quit," he said. "You started this thing, you stick with it. Started it off, it's just not your turn yet, it's going to come."

He's done that. Now, he plans on showing Hokie Nation what he can do.

"I just stuck with it, kept working hard and just kept telling myself, it's going to come, it's going to come. Make sure you're ready when you get called," Painter said. "And here it is."

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