WASHINGTON D.C. — Troy Vincent is no stranger to "huddling up."
The former NFL All-Pro defensive back and current National Football League Executive Vice President of Football Operations understands that getting in the huddle is the first step to calling a play and executing a plan.
But this past week, when Vincent huddled up, it wasn't on a football field and his teammates were not were not stars of the NFL.
This past Monday night, Vincent huddled in a kitchen of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Washington, D.C. with county sheriffs from across the U.S. And their plan was to find new ways to combat domestic violence.
"It was the right audience, with experience and credibility," Vincent said. "And it was primarily men."
As Vincent, a crusader on the issue of domestic violence repeatedly stresses, his message that domestic violence needs to stop is one that needs to be delivered to men.
"Troy always says, 'The ladies get it (domestic violence). They understand,' " Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour said. "He says, 'I've got to speak to the men.' That's gonna be our focus. We gotta do better with this."
Voutour arranged for Vincent to address the Winter Conference of the National Sheriffs' Association after hearing him speak at the YWCA of Niagara's Domestic Violence Awareness Luncheon in October.
"The idea popped into my head that day," Voutour said. "I pitched it (to the association's executive director) and he said, 'We gotta bring (Vincent) in.' "
The Y had promised that Vincent would bring a "different, non-traditional message" on domestic violence. After living in the shadow of domestic violence against his mother, from her boyfriend, from the age of 7 to 17, Vincent has made confronting domestic abuse his life's mission.
And he brought that message of confrontation to the county sheriffs.
"See something, say something," Voutour said. "That's the message."
Vincent shared the speakers podium at the conference with then Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whittaker and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He called the opportunity "industry changing."
"Many don't give thanks to the men and women in uniform for putting their lives on the line," Vincent said. "I reflected on the officers who put their arms around me when I made that call from the phone booth (to report the abuse against his mother) and who held my hand at the hospital that night."
Vincent said as he spoke he saw the heads for some of the sheriffs in the audience nodding in agreement.
"Somebody in that audience is going through what I went through," Vincent said. "They've engaged it."
Voutour said as Vincent spoke bluntly about his experience with domestic abuse, the effect on his fellow sheriffs was profound.
"That's when the sheriffs had their heads down. You could see it touched them," Voutour said. "Then we huddled up backstage for about 30 minutes. A lot of the guys told some stories and they were in agreement that sheriffs need to be the leaders in speaking out on this,"
When the huddle broke, Vincent and his newfound law enforcement teammates had called their play.
"The research shows that we can do this. We just have to start younger," Vincent said in stressing the need to educate young men about the perils of domestic abuse. "This audience could have the greatest influence on that. I'm just asking them to join our journey."
Both Vincent and Voutour said the sheriffs and representatives of their association have committed to creating a model for change in the fight against domestic abuse.
"There is no question we will continue to work directly with the association and individual sheriffs," Vincent said. "We touched the room. Now what are we going to do about starting a model for education and prevention?"
Voutour said he believes the new model will start with sheriffs taking on more active role in speaking out on domestic violence.
"The sheriffs need to be leaders in speaking to our youth, and to our male youth particularly," Voutour said. "(We'll) come up with a program and Troy wants to be involved with it. We gotta do better."