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Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Minority candidate Vital will get his shot

By Vaughn McClure

MOBILE, Ala. -- Lionel Vital will get his opportunity, at some point.

The Atlanta Falcons' director of player personnel was in the running to become the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers alongside new head coach Lovie Smith. However, the job apparently will go to one of the other candidates such as Marc Ross of the New York Giants or Jason Licht of the Arizona Cardinals.

As a minority candidate, Vital made a positive step by going through the interview process. He could join the list of black general managers in the future, following in the footsteps of Jerry Reese of the Giants, Reggie McKenzie of the Oakland Raiders, Martin Mayhew of the Detroit Lions, Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens, and Rick Smith of the Houston Texans.

The Buccaneers interviewed at least four minority candidates for the general manager position: Vital, Ross, Morocco Brown of the Washington Redskins, and Lake Dawson of the Tennessee Titans.

"There are of talent guys out there," Reese said of the minority candidates such as Vital. "It’s a testament to the National Football League understanding the diversity issues and addressing it along with the owners and the Fritz Pollard Alliance. It’s a beautiful thing.

"It seems like there are more candidates this year. Sometimes the cycle just goes that way. Guys just need opportunities."

Rod Graves, senior director of football administration for the New York Jets, was one of handful of black general managers when he held the title for the Arizona Cardinals. He is well aware of the work guys such as Vital have put in to get to this point. Vital has 20-plus year of experience in scouting and player personnel.

"It’s exciting to see guys have those types of opportunities because those guys bring a certain experience level, in my opinion, equivalent to what we see across the league and, in some case, even stronger," Graves said. "And those guys have done a great job of paying their dues. And they have great reputations.

"Who knows the reason why guys don’t get opportunities at certain times. But the fact of the matter is, those are the names that deserve opportunities. And I’m glad they are getting considered now."