Maddi Vigil Keeps Up With Her Brothers' Athletic Successes
Maddi Vigil has always turned to her older brothers, Nick and Zach, for inspiration and advice for her athletics career.
Maddi Vigil has always turned to her older brothers, Nick and Zach, for inspiration and advice for her athletics career.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

BILLINGS, Mont. – For as long as she can remember, Maddi Vigil has been trying to keep up with her older brothers.

“We have always been really competitive, no matter what it is,” the Montana State Billings senior outside hitter said. “Whether we were playing football in the yard or playing softball, it doesn’t matter. They were very hard on me as a kid just because they are extremely athletic and extremely good at every sport they played.”

Athletic ability runs in the Vigil family. Brothers Nick and Zach both played Division I football at Utah State and both went on to NFL careers. Nick is a fifth-year pro, currently with the Los Angeles Chargers. Zach played parts of four seasons, playing last with the Washington Football Team in 2017.

So when it came time for Maddi to continue her volleyball career collegiately, she looked for Division I opportunities. After all, Nick and Zach had played in Division I. She had to keep up.

But when Division I walk-on offers had yielded to a better scholarship offer from Division II Montana State Billings, it was the brothers who put friendly competition aside to provide the sound advice of taking advantage of a great opportunity.

“I wanted to go Division I to prove that I was as good as them,” Maddi said. “But the more I talked to my brothers, they said that it didn’t matter what level I played as long as I was getting an education. At the end of the day, volleyball is not your entire life. You will have things after volleyball. You will have a career. You will have family. You have all of these other aspects of life that you need to consider.”

Advice like that, along with the common link of three siblings all going on to play college sports, has created a tight bond between the three that has helped make Maddi into a leader for the Yellowjackets.

Sports were a regular part of the Vigil family experience. Nick and Zach played a little of everything and, according to Maddi, did it all well. They played football, basketball and baseball. They wrestled and even tried karate and bull riding.

Maddi was a one-sport girl, concentrating on tumbling since she was 4 years old. And she was as good at it as her brothers were at their sports, earning a No. 4 national ranking in junior high school.

By the time she entered high school, though, volleyball became her sport of choice. After 14 years of tumbling, Maddi was looking for something new and something where she might be less prone to injury. Volleyball seemed to fit the bill.

“I wanted to play a team sport and tumbling was more individual,” Maddi said. “Going from an individual sport to a team sport was exciting. I had other people who could lift me up and that I could lift up. It was a change of pace and I enjoyed it.”

On the volleyball court, Maddi kept up by gaining the accolades that her brothers had earned on the football field and basketball court. At Ogden, Utah’s Fremont High School, Maddi was a two-time first-team all-state selection and led the way as the Silver Wolves competed for regional titles her junior and senior years.

“When I started playing volleyball, it was all that I could think about,” Maddi said. “I didn’t care to try another sport because I loved volleyball and I wanted to spend all of my time doing that.”

Asked if she would have liked to have a chance to share the field for a while with Zach and Nick, Maddi laughs. The competitive nature in her would have loved it.

“I wanted to play football from the time I was six until forever. My dad said that my face was too pretty to get hit,” Maddi said, laughing at the reasoning. “I loved baseball, so I thought maybe I could go into softball. I tried to get my dad to let me mutton bust (a rodeo event where youth ride sheep) but he wouldn’t let me do that either.”

With all of the competition, with the looking up to her two pro football playing older brothers and the sibling rivalry, Maddi knows that the experienced they have shared in athletics is unique. To have all three of them move on to play at a high level in college is against the odds and it provides a special bond.

“It’s an amazing thing to be able to share the same experience as siblings,” Maddi said. “I know that they played football and I am playing a completely different sport at different schools but it is something that we won’t forget and something that we don’t take for granted. We have all had the same experiences.”

The entire Vigil family is in close contact, which now includes adopted brothers Freedom (19) and Shayd (15). Maddi talks with Zach and Nick every other day. With no volleyball this fall, she took the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles and spend time with Nick and his family during one of his home game weeks. Unlike previous years, though, the pandemic kept Maddi from seeing Nick play in person with the Chargers keeping SoFi Stadium closed to fans.

But when she needs some advice on how to handle a situation, whether on or off the court, the older brothers are her first calls.

“Usually it’s Zach that I call. He is very analytical,” Maddi said. “He knows the ins and outs of college sports and athletics. Whenever I have a problem or I am struggling with something, he is my go-to because he sees things the exact same way I see things. He brings me back to earth.”

After coming to terms with moving past those Division I walk-on offers, the decision to attend Montana State Billings was an easy one for Maddi. The Vigil family often vacationed in the Treasure State, enjoying fishing trips on the Beaverhead River out of Dillon.

“I had been to Montana and absolutely loved it. So I was excited when I got that email from Casey (Williams),” Maddi said. “We drove out there and I told my parents that, if I like it, I am probably going to commit. I fell in love with the community, the people, the facilities. I committed on my visit.”

Maddi established herself as a leader from the start of her career at MSUB. A three-year starter, Maddi earned Honorable Mention All-GNAC honors as a sophomore after averaging 2.53 kills and 3.19 digs per set. As a junior, Maddi averaged 2.64 kills and 2.60 digs per set while climbing into the Yellowjackets’ career top-10 lists with 912 kills and 985 digs.

With Montana State Billings electing not to play volleyball in 2020-21 (along with the program’s other fall sports programs), Maddi’s role as a team leader is more important than ever. In addition to continuing to prepare herself for the prospects of the fall 2021 season, Maddi knows that she has to do her part to prepare and motivate her teammates.

“We try to give a lot of encouragement,” Maddi said. “We’re just trying to keep competitive and make our incoming freshmen better and understanding what the GNAC season is going to look like in 2021. I think the freshmen struggle with it since they have not experienced a season yet. We’re just trying to keep them involved and keep them motivated to practice and go at it 100 percent.”

In addition to practicing when health conditions allow them to, the team has conducted a lot of small-group skills sessions, Zoom calls and strength sessions. Anything to try to keep things feeling normal in a far-from-normal year.

Maddi admits to struggling herself with motivation after seeing what was supposed to be her senior season put on hold. She thanks teammate and fellow senior Bayli Monck and the MSUB newcomers for keeping her on track.

“Thank goodness I have Bayli with me. We keep each other motivated,” Maddi said. “And I am allowing the freshmen to motivate me. When they carry on when I am not here, I want to know that I did my best to keep them motivated. They push me every day.”

When the year is over, Maddi Vigil hopes that she will have provided the motivation to keep the MSUB volleyball program moving on an upward trajectory. Much like how her older brothers motivated her to keep moving upward.

“They motivated me in emotional ways, physical ways, any way possible,” she said.