Scroll down to No. 12 on Maine South’s football roster and Vinny Labus will be listed as a junior. That is correct, but his teammates don’t consider him one.
“We basically treat him as a senior because that’s how we treat anyone who plays as a sophomore,” senior safety and running back Clay Burdelik said.
Labus was a starter last season as a hybrid tight end/wide receiver and finds himself in a similar position this season. He also has the added task of starting at outside linebacker in the Hawks’ 3-4 defense after contributing irregularly there last season.
“It’s very, very rare,” senior teammate Andrew Ingraham said of sophomores starting at Maine South, which has won three of the previous five Class 8A state titles. “Besides (Matt) Alviti he’s the only one that I know of. Maybe Matt Perez. Only the top, the elite of the elite, start at Maine South as a sophomore.”
Perez (class of 2010) played at Indiana and Alviti (2013) is spending his Saturdays this fall suiting up for Northwestern.
“It makes me kind of proud of myself,” Labus said of being mentioned with those two. “I think it means I could be one of the greats like Matt Alviti and Matt Perez. They were great football players. Hopefully I can keep that going.”
Labus isn’t set to follow Alviti and Perez step for step just yet as no schools are recruiting him. He said that process will “hopefully” start at some point.
At the moment, Labus serves as a “good mentor” to his teammates, according to Burdelik.
“When we’re running the offense (in practice) and he’s not in, he’s always helping the guys that are trying to learn and telling them what routes they have, what they need to change or do a little bit differently to be more successful,” Burdelik said.
Labus said he learned “to be loud and assertive” from Alviti during their one year together.
“If you need something done or need someone to be with you, you got to tell them you want them to be by your side,” Labus said.
Ingraham said Labus is a natural-born leader who has learned a lot from those who have come before him, which has made him a better teammate and sets him up for a bright future.
“He knows that next year he wants to be the guy who really puts the team in the right direction,” Ingraham said.