With the official retirement announcement in the books, the football story for Michael Vick is officially over. Never before in American sport has one witnessed such a meteoric rise and a crushing fall. In 2004, Vick inked a contract making him the highest paid player in the N.F.L.. In 2007, he was suspended without pay due to his involvement in a dog fighting ring. The quarterback that electrified Blacksburg on Saturdays became another barbershop conversation in what could have been. I have seen two other quarterbacks that had Vick’s ability. Tim Tebow from the University of Florida, and Cam Newton at Auburn. Each of these guys had a unique skill set, but they shared a common theme. They could completely and utterly take over a college football game. They could will their team for the big win. I have watched college football for over 30 years, and that’s my three. There are a ton of others out there: Tommy Frazier (Nebraska), Doug Flutie (Boston College), Major Harris (West Virginia), Charlie Ward (Florida State). Harris might be closest comparison to Vick. Major Harris took West Virginia to the national championship game, but ultimately fell short to Notre Dame. Michael Vick took Virginia Tech to a national championship game, but lost to F.S.U.. The other folks on that casting call have had some interesting pro careers, but nothing on the level of Michael Vick.
When Michael Vick was drafted, I remember thinking “perfect fit”. It was not too far from home, Atlanta was ready for a superstar, Arthur Blank seemed competent. It didn’t take long for Vick to justify the Falcons taking him with first overall pick. When the Falcons made the playoffs, and Vick went and beat Brett Favre in Lambeau, the ceiling seemed unlimited. I wasn’t the only one thinking Michael Vick would hoist multiple Super Bowl trophies. Vick was a renegade. Vick was an outlier. He was the complete package at quarterback. He had the best arm I’ve ever seen live. I’ve seen Matt Ryan, Dak Prescott, Andrew Luck all throw in person, and Vick threw it better. Did I mention he also ran a sub 4.4 40?
“When Vick threw the ball, he looked like he was throwing darts. There was no wind up. There were no nervous feet. He looked like me at the Ton 80 trying to get a double bull for the win. A flick of the wrist, and 70 yards later Andre Davis was waltzing into the end zone.
Soon after Vick’s sentencing, people would ask me what I thought about Michael Vick, the person. Honestly, I didn’t really know how to answer the question. As a Hokie fan, Vick was the most electrifying player I had ever seen. As a dog lover, I was mortified that Vick was attached forever to my school. I have had three dogs in my life. Marley was a dalmatian who was sweet, extremely athletic, and knew when I needed a true friend. Bear was a golden lab who only liked me. Friends would drop by, and he hated them. Strangers would walk by and I would have to hold his leash for dear life. He was somewhat antisocial, but I chalked it up to being protective. RosaBeth is a terrier who would rather sit in my lap than go to doggy Disney World. All of these dogs I adopted as puppies. I have buried two. RosaBeth is currently lurking around the kitchen chasing an almond that may have missed the bowl. Point is, it’s really conflicting to be a Michael Vick fan.
In the current era, it is really easy to climb your high horse. Everyone is either left or right. The world is so politicized that having an honest “take” on a subject opens up the author to scorn from both sides. The subject of Michael Vick is painfully similar. If you defend his off field behavior, you are a monster. If you disregard his athletic contributions to the school, you are ignorant. I will say this. I never have killed dogs, but there have been some decisions in my life I’m not especially proud of. The difference is pretty easy to identify. I’m not the face of an N.F.L. franchise. My indiscretions are the fodder of many sleepless nights, but didn’t cost me my livelihood. I can’t justify Michael Vick’s actions, just like I can’t justify my own. I’m not a judge, and social media isn’t either. The only person who has to live with Michael Vick’s baggage is Michael Vick. As a football player, he was a super hero. As a man, that’s not my call. I will simply leave that up to history.