Small roots, big dreams: former Holland College Hurricane lineman set to attend Tropical Bowl

Wednesday, January 11, 2017. Charlottetown – By Thomas Becker What does a high school student from Boston do if he wants to pursue a post-secondary education and continue to play football? Choosing to go to Prince Edward Island to attend Holland College might not be the traditional route. But as Vernon Sainvil will tell you as he prepares for the upcoming Tropical Bowl in Daytona Beach, Florida, it’s as good a path as any.

After successful stints with the Holland College Hurricanes and the St. Francis Xavier X-Men, the 6-foot-5, 330-pound offensive lineman from Malden, Massachusetts, is gearing up in preparation for the second annual Tropical Bowl – a Division I College Football All-Star Game that features some of the brightest talents in North America.

The 24-year-old got his start at Malden High School, where he played under Coach Joseph Pappagallo, who helped guide the young man to a promising future.

“Coach told me that football could help me pursue an education after high school.”

And it did.

During the summer of 2011, Mark MacDougall, head coach of the Holland Hurricanes at the time, had to opportunity to see Sainvil at a football camp in Boston. He remembers being awestruck by the big, sturdy teenager.

“He was a big player, and everyone there saw great potential in him,” MacDougall said. “We were excited to have him join our team.”

“I went to Holland College because I believed it was a great place for me to work on my studies and to be able to concentrate on the sport I love,” Sainvil said. “I knew players on the team from the previous year and they were happy to be there.”

In his first season, Sainvil became a leader with the up-and-coming Hurricanes, punishing defenders who dared to come near his quarterback.

“The team had key players in Demetrius Ferguson and Marcus Dunphy and other guys before me. I just came in, played my part and helped us win our first championship in team history.”

After completing his program at Holland College, Sainvil decided to take his talents to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he played for the St. F.X. X-Men in 2013.

“From an eyeball test, he’s a big, large individual who moves really well,” said X-Men head coach Gary Waterman. “When you see that kind of size with the ability to bend and move and change direction, you get excited.”

Sainvil started the season at right tackle, but quickly earned the trust of his coaching staff and was moved to the left side where he was given the herculean task of protecting the quarterback’s blind side.

“He continued to develop as a player and as a leader and our offence flourished,” Waterman said. “He’s an anchor and he’s been a guy that has great presence and I think he’s made a huge impact in the confidence of our team.”

Sainvil helped lead the X-Men to their first Loney Bowl in 2015, ending a 19-year drought. This season, St. F.X. recaptured the title in a 29-8 final against the Mount Allison Mounties.

The accolades don’t stop there. Sainvil became the fourth player on the X-Men team to reach U Sports (formerly CIS) All-Canadian status three times in their career, accomplishing the feat in consecutive seasons from 2014 to 2016. He is also a three-time Atlantic University Sport (AUS) offensive all-star, and was named the 2016 AUS outstanding lineman.

Sainvil will be the first to admit he couldn’t have accomplished any of this without the help of many people who provided him with encouragement and support.

“I have to thank the coaches and staff for giving me an opportunity and putting the right people around me to help develop my craft.”

Following the inaugural Tropical Bowl last year, 38 players went on to sign with NFL teams. The Detroit Lions, New York Giants, and Miami Dolphins have already contacted Sainvil’s agent, and all of the CFL teams have expressed interest in the young man.

There will be more than 70 NFL and CFL scouts, coaches and GMs attending the Tropical Bowl, where they will be able to see for themselves what has made Sainvil such a standout.

All of the Hurricanes, past and present, are rooting for Vernon as he chases this latest opportunity. Coach MacDougall says it best:

“I am very proud of Vernon and what he’s achieved. He’s grown a great deal as a player and a person, and I’m cheering for him. Hopefully many young players heading to college can get some motivation from Vernon’s example.”

The Tropic Bowl focuses on providing a scouting opportunity for the players involved and is not broadcast on TV. However, the game will be live streamed at