New England Patriots: Jason Vega

Vega's football journey comes full circle

February, 19, 2013
Three years after the demise of Northeastern’s football program, one member of its final squad will be returning home this spring.

[+] EnlargeJason Vega
Jeff Vinnick/Getty ImagesJason Vega (right) -- a standout at Brockton High and then Northeastern -- sees himself as a defensive end with the Patriots.
Defensive end Jason Vega was a standout football player at Brockton High School, graduating in 2005. For the last two seasons, the 25-year old has toiled north of the border, playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.

Vega’s contract with Winnipeg expired Friday, and on Tueday he officially signed with the New England Patriots.

Having a Massachusetts native in the NFL like Vega, who lived in Randolph until he was 7 years old, is rare. But making his journey even more unlikely is that his playing career looked to be over two years ago.

Bypassed in the 2010 NFL draft, Vega had a brief stint on the practice roster of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats that summer before a groin injury led to his release. He returned to Northeastern, taking a job in their athletic department as an academic adviser.

That was the first fall without football for Northeastern, which disbanded its program in early 2010, and for Vega, who took up the sport as a freshman at Brockton.

In 2004, Vega and Brockton took down powerhouse Everett High School for the state championship, but it wasn’t enough to get Vega a chance to play at Boston College or another school in the national spotlight.

Instead, Vega decided to stay close to home and to his family, joining two of his high school teammates at Northeastern, whose football team struggled throughout his tenure.

“There was a camaraderie among my teammates because we knew we didn’t get much support there,” Vega said. “It was just that (feeling) we had amongst each other, as opposed to being fan-driven.”

College football has struggled to take root in the Boston area, with the largest school in the city, Boston University, eliminating its program following the 1997 season. With minimal fan support, it would not be long before Northeastern followed suit.

“The whole time I was there, it was always kind of in the air,” Vega said. “(But) it was never given much thought because it was being dispelled by the higher-ups in the athletic department and the university. They said if it was something that was going to be done, then they would definitely let us know.”

During Vega’s senior campaign in 2009, a meeting was called. Players were told the program would be eliminated at the conclusion of the season. Northeastern’s coaches, Vega’s greatest advocates to NFL teams, would soon scatter.

Despite interest from several NFL teams, Vega went undrafted in 2010 and returned to Boston following his stint in Hamilton.

“I had kind of taken the mentality that I was done with football at that point,” he said. “After my experience in Hamilton I literally had almost given it up for a while and didn’t want anything to do with football for a little while.”

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Some thoughts on CFL to Pats

January, 26, 2013
The Patriots' signing of former Southern Cal and Toronto Argonaut defensive lineman Armond Armstead was dissected thoroughly over the last week. Now comes news that the Patriots have an agreement with another CFL player, Winnipeg Blue Bomber Jason Vega (formerly of Northeastern).

Armstead and Vega are different cases -- one almost assured to make the roster (Armstead) and one a longer shot to do so (Vega). But the link between them is that they both played in the CFL in chasing their NFL dreams, and showed scouts enough to get their chance.

Along these lines, one comment from Argonauts general manager Jim Barker from his interview came to mind.

"We’re more of a space game. ... There are some different skill sets, but in certain positions and areas there is obviously carry-over," Barker said.

Pass-rusher is one of them, and that's what Armstead and Vega seem to do best.

So while the CFL and NFL are different games, one link between the two is that more of the NFL is being played in space than ever before (e.g., second half of AFC Championship Game when Ravens spread it out against the Patriots). So it makes sense that scouts looking for pass-rushers are taking a closer look at the CFL.

In Armstead's case, there was a medical issue that led him to the CFL before getting his NFL chance. In Vega's case, it was more performance-related.

Now they'll both be vying for a spot with the Patriots, as the link between the CFL and NFL -- and in this case, the Patriots -- grows a bit stronger.

Source: Patriots, Jason Vega agree

January, 26, 2013
The New England Patriots have agreed to terms with Canadian Football League defensive end/outside linebacker Jason Vega, a source confirmed.

The deal has yet to be announced, since Vega will have to first be released from his contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, which should happen by next month. Vega recorded 12 sacks over the past two seasons for Winnipeg.

Vega will become the second defensive lineman the Patriots have plucked from the CFL this offseason, after they agreed to terms with Armond Armstead earlier this week.

The 25-year old Vega worked out for the Patriots in December. At 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, he projects to either defensive end or outside linebacker in New England's 4-3 defense.

Vega is a Brockton, Mass., native and played at Northeastern, where he tallied 41 sacks over four seasons and was a CAA Academic All-Conference selection.

The agreement was first reported by Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe.