Vasher Forever a Longhorn

Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher is a happy young man these days, especially considering he just signed a $28 million contract extension during the offseason. With training camp still a few weeks away, the former Longhorm spent some time back in Austin, TX at a youth football camp and got to relive his glory days at the University of Texas. Vasher made some time for along the way.

Nathan Vasher reunited this past weekend with former Longhorn teammates B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas to help promote the Pro Experience Youth Football Camp July 14-15 in Austin.

Several times during the recent event, a national sports network ran a segment titled "How To Defend Calvin Johnson" – the former All-American Georgia Tech wide receiver who becomes the latest in a succession of Detroit Lions' No. 1 Draft picks at that position. I nudged Vasher and joked that he should take mental notes. Vasher was highly complimentary of Johnson, but Vasher could have scripted the segment.

Vasher is Chicago's current active leader in career INTs (16 from 2004-06) and No. 5 overall in the NFL during the past three seasons with 333 interception return yards. His 108-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown against San Francisco in 2005 was the the longest scoring play in NFL history, but it was tied last season by teammate Devin Hester. He is Chicago's first Pro-Bowl cornerback since 1994.

Vasher (at Texas 2000-03) was recently mentioned in the Spring 2007 edition of Inside Texas magazine as the No. 2 all-time defensive back in Longhorn history, second only to consensus All-American Jerry Gray. He shares Texas' single-season interception record (7) and career interception mark (17) with Noble Doss. He's also the school's all-time leader for punt return yards both in a single season (554) and career (1,314).

Of course, Vasher is joined on the Bears' roster by former Longhorn running back Cedric Benson (2001-04) and faces another former teammate, receiver Roy Williams (2000-03), twice during the regular season in an NFC North rivalry game against Detroit. Following the football camp, Vasher has planned a Caribbean vacation before the Bears open training camp on July 27.

Inside Texas: You played in some high-profile college games, but what was your Super Bowl experience like for you? What was the most meaningful aspect of it?
Nathan Vasher:
It meant the world to me. What I tell people when they ask about the Super Bowl, I tell them that I've played that game every year in my mind since I was six years old. You want to play on the stage. You want to make that Super Bowl run. I was disappointed we didn't get the win, bit I wouldn't trade that experience for anything in the world. I liked the whole week. I really liked Media Day.

IT: Oh, really? I don't hear that much. Why is that?
There was media from all over the world. There was a guy from Germany that asked me a question. There are fans all over the world, and we're the only game on. The whole world was watching it. I was excited about it. It's one of those things where you play that game in your mind so many time, and once you get a chance to get out there, it's exceptional. I'm very sorry we didn't win the ball game, but the experience is something I will never forget.

IT: What can we expect from Duane Akina now that he's calling the shots for the Texas defense?
He's going to be aggressive. He likes an aggressive style of play. Coach Akina is smart. He's going to put players in a position to make the right play on the ball. He likes to man-it-up. I was very glad when I heard he got that promotion. He's a players' coach. Players can relate to him.

IT: Take us through that 108-yard missed field goal return. How tired were you? I got tired watching it.
(Laughing) I know it! I had a chance to see it on televisions a couple of times. It's just one of those plays that you never think can happen. We practice on that play all the time, but you never think it will happen during the course of a game. The conditions were right, and I had a chance to run it. I don't know if I could do it again. It was definitely fun.

IT: Can Cedric Benson be 'The Man' this season?
Cedric already is 'The Man.' He works as hard as anybody I've ever seen. I don't think he's changed his work ethic. If anything, he's turned it up a notch and that comes from him being 'The Guy.' I haven't seem him run the ball like that in a long time, and I know he has the confidence to do it. I know he has the skill to do it. I'm just happy to go out there and see him play.

IT: I remember during your senior year at Texas that you only wanted to scrimmage against Roy Williams. And now you're facing him twice a year as division rivals. How much trash talk is there between the two of you?
We talk the week of the game. You know, the NFL is entertainment. We try to put things out in the paper. Roy had a guarantee last year about them coming to Chicago and beating us. There's some theatrics that goes along with it. It's about giving people what they want, and that includes great football.

IT: What's the biggest, baddest hit in Longhorns football history?
Texas Tech, baby! Texas Tech.

(Editor's note: That would be Vasher's introduction to WR Carlos Francis in the 2001 42-7 thumping in Austin. To relive the "biggest, baddest hit" in Longhorns history, Click Here.)

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