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Vildor patrolling the skies
Kindle Vildor
Georgia Southern cornerback Kindle Vildor (20) celebrates after upending Eastern Michigan running back Willie Parker during the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama on December 15, 2018. Vildor returns to lead the Eagles' defensive secondary in his senior season and has been named the Sun Belt Conference's preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

For the better part of four decades, the book on Georgia Southern is that the Eagles don’t put the ball in the air much.

Thanks in large part to senior cornerback Kindle Vildor, it’s this year’s opponents of Georgia Southern that will have to worry about how effective their passing game can be.

Vildor has been a mainstay in the Eagles’ defensive secondary since his true freshman season in 2016. He has played in every one of Georgia Southern’s 37 games since stepping foot in Statesboro and has started the last 18.

Last season was a breakout campaign for Vildor as he led the team with four interceptions - his first coming against the eventual national champions from Clemson - while racking up an impressive 42 tackles and forcing a fumble. His efforts garnered the attention of Pro Football Focus, which named him a Second Team All-American and the Sun Belt Player of the Year.

Those accolades have carried over through the offseason as Vildor was named the Sun Belt’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year ahead of the conference’s media day earlier this week.

“I’m glad people are talking about me, but I don’t pay too much attention to it,” Vildor said. “To me, all of that just shows what hard work can accomplish. I remember where I came from and started from the bottom. I’m just going to keep on working.”

When Vildor began his career with the Eagles, the team’s secondary was a huge point of concern as the 2015 Go Daddy Bowl champion squad from the year prior had graduated many of its pass defenders. The script is flipped now as both Vildor and fellow senior cornerback Monquavion Brinson can boast of preseason All-Sun Belt honors to make up what figures to be one of the best secondaries in the league.

And while Vildor has pulled down most of the headlines over the last 18 months, he’s quick to credit his teammates for the overall success of the defense.

When Vildor was fighting his way up the depth chart in 2017, it was Brinson who was in the middle of a breakout season. Brinson’s five interceptions and 17 passes defended that year opened the door for Vildor’s huge 2018 campaign as most opponents opted to test him instead of throwing Brinson’s way.

As it turned out, much of the Eagles’ secondary was a no-fly zone last fall, with the cornerback duo ready to shine again in its final season at Georgia Southern.

“We don’t go out there and try to outdo one another, but we do feed off of each other,” Vildor said. “That’s how everyone (in the secondary) is. All of us love to compete and push each other in practice. When that carries over to games and we’re all playing our style of football, good things happen.”

Vildor will be tested immediately as the Eagles kick off their season Aug. 31 with a trip to Baton Rouge, La. to take on an LSU squad that will likely be ranked in the top-15 of the Associated Press national poll. LSU will also prove tough in all the areas that will test Vildor and his teammates in the secondary as the Tigers return their starting quarterback along with their top five receivers from last season.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Vildor said. “But we’re going to keep doing what we do. A lot of eyes will be on us, but I live for those moments.”