Light Reunited With Legendary Mentor
Associate head coach Rock Light (right) reunited with his former head coach and mentor Dr. Joe Vigil (left) Thursday.
March 15, 2012
by Britton Drown
TUCSON, Ariz. - A smile crept across the face of Dr. Joe Vigil as he walked through the automatic sliding doors and into the lobby of the Hilton Double Tree Hotel Thursday afternoon.
The lobby was quiet and Vigil's entrance didn't immediately grasp the attention of those inside, but that didn't quite matter.
"There he is," associate head coach Rock Light said - also with a grin.
He stood up from the plush couch and waited for Vigil, the coach, and perhaps even more importantly the mentor, that has made such a lasting impact on his life.
For 32 years, Vigil and Light have remained connected, and today the two met once again in Vigil's hometown of Tucson, Ariz.
"I don't get to see him too often," Vigil said. "So it's very special. We just have a very close relationship."
At Adam's State College in Alamosa, Colo., Vigil built a dynasty in the track and field and cross country world. During a span of 28 seasons at the helm of the program, Vigil's teams captured 18 national championships and produced more than 350 All-Americans - including Light who was a two-time All-American sprinter.
Not only was Vigil a legendary head coach on the track, but he was also a long-time graduate professor. He used science to study the physiology of distance runners and his expertise in distance running led him to serve as a U.S. coach 17 times including stints at several Olympic Games.
The study of science in track and field was what captivated Light while at Adams State.
"He taught me to be a great coach you have to understand the physiology of the human body and then apply it," Light said. "That was the first thing that he taught me."
Following his career as a student-athlete at Adams State, Light spent two years as a graduate assistant coach under Vigil from 1980-82. The two years jump-started his coaching career where he now uses many of the same coaching philosophies to mentor his jumpers at Texas Tech.
"He told me I was going to be a coach," Light said. "And I said that's what I wanted to do. Whenever I am faced with a problem, I always ask, `What would coach Vigil do.'"
Yes, Vigil, who currently has 26 former athletes in the coaching ranks, is still a heavy influence on Light and his coaching style. Now, Light is making his own mark at Texas Tech as the jumps coach where he has built one of the best jumps programs in the country.
In 2010 alone, Light produced four All-Americans, four Big 12 Champions and two Big 12 Freshman of the Year winners.
He has built his very own jumps program with a touch of the coaching style he learned from Vigil.
"I have never met somebody on this planet quite like him," Light said. "And I don't think I ever will."