Prague Black Panthers hire Matt Vinal as new HC

The Prague Black Panthers have hired from within in signing Matt Vinal to be their new head coach for the 2020 season.

The 28-year-old Vinal from San Mateo, California, has spent the past three seasons playing safety and cornerback as well as coaching for the Black Panthers. He finally stepped off the field and into a coaching role for good in 2019 after suffering a string of injuries.  A graduate of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, UNLV (NCAA, Div. I, FBS) where he starred for two years, earning the Special Teams Player of the Year award in 2014. Vinal spent a pair of seasons playing arena football with the Las Vegas Outlaws and the Los Angeles KISS before joining Prague in 2017. His high school, Junipero Serra HS in San Mateo, has a reputation for producing talented football players including Tom Brady.

The Black Panthers returned to the Austrian Football League in 2019 after a three-year absence and reached the semifinals, losing to the Dacia Vienna Vikings in a close game.

American Football International asked Vinal about how he arrived in Europe and making the transition to head coach, taking over a successful team.

AFI: Congrats on signing on as HC of the Black Panthers. Tell us a little about your background. How was the transition from playing to coaching last year?

Vinal: I grew up in a sports family. Both of my sisters played college volleyball. My mom was a P.E. teacher and played sports herself. My dad has been a football coach since he was in college. I grew up in the Bay Area, and went to the Junípero Serra High School in San Mateo, alma mater of Tom Brady, Lynn Swann and David Bahktiari. From there I attended College of San Mateo, the same junior college as Julian Edelman. I transferred to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I played arena football for two seasons with the Las Vegas Outlaws and the Los Angeles KISS.

AFI: You transitioned into a full time coaching role in 2019. How difficult was that?

Vinal: The transition wasn’t too difficult for me. I’ve been coaching for the past five years. Right after arena football, I started coaching with my father at my old high school before coming to PBP in 2017. From high school junior varsity to second division Czech league for our development team. I’ve been coaching for some time now.

AFI: How did you end up signing with the Black Panthers in the first place?

Vinal: In 2016, PBP had an import RB/FS named Jason Simpson. He grew up in the same area as me. We played against each other in high school and college. So I reached out to Terry Malley, a mutual and respected coach of ours, he told me to speak to Jason. Jason spoke to PBP seeing if they were looking for a DB import, and next thing you know I’m signing on the dotted line and on a flight to Prague. First time ever in Europe.

AFI: The Black Panthers were a force in the Austrian Football League and almost beat the Vienna Vikings in the semifinals last season. What can you do to get over the hump?

Vinal: I believe there’s not much for me to do to us get over the hump. I believe our team will find that within ourselves. After what I’ve seen from my teammates and now my players after that game was they got a taste of how great we could be. We can play and hang with the big dogs. I think our offseason alone will be huge for us. Plus bringing back James Brooks as DC takes a lot off my plate. He’s an amazing coach and we work so well together. The team is excited to have him back as well.


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