Today is August 24, 2019, which means we are officially only seven days away from the Virginia Tech Hokies opening the college football season at Boston College. One week, folks. Yesterday, we profiled former Hokie safety Vincent Fuller for No. 8. Today, we look back at the incomparable Michael Vick.
Vick arrived at Virginia Tech in the class of 1998. A four-star prospect from Warwick High in Newport News, Vick was largely considered the second-best quarterback in Virginia’s class of 1998. The first, Ronald Curry, chose North Carolina over Virginia and never considered Virginia Tech. I think that worked out pretty well for the Hokies.
Vick redshirted in 1998 with Al Clark under center for the Hokies. Vick made his much-awaited debut for the Hokies in 1999 in a 47-0 home win over James Madison. Vick, the starter, carried the ball just four times for 54 yards and scored three touchdowns. He completed four of six passes for 110 yards, displaying his amazing arm strength on a completion to Ricky Hall. On his final touchdown run, he did a flip into the end zone and landed on his ankle, causing him to miss the rest of that game. So, his numbers were in just over a quarter of play. That game set the stage for what would be a magical season for the Virginia Tech program.
The Hokies would finish the regular season with an 11-0 record, steamrolling through everyone except a tight road win at West Virginia. Vick, along with Shayne Graham, were the heroes for the Hokies on that day. Tech started deep in its own territory with just over a minute remaining and a few Vick throws and one clutch scramble, the Hokies in field-goal for Graham to nail a 44-yard game-winner.
That season led to the Hokies appearing in the BCS National Championship game where they lost to top-ranked Florida State 46-29. Vick put on a show during that game and kept the Hokies in it, even giving them a lead heading into the fourth quarter against a loaded FSU squad.
For the season, Vick completed almost 58 percent of his passes for 2,065 yards, 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also rushed for 682 yards and nine touchdowns. Remember, sacks count against the quarterback’s rushing yards in college football, or Vick would’ve had considerably more rushing yards.
He was the Big East Offensive Player of the Year and Big East Rookie of the Year. In addition, Vick finished third in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy, which at that point was highest ever for a freshman. Other accomplishments for Vick was he led the NCAA in passing efficiency that season, the first time a freshman had ever done so and his 180.4 rating was, at that time, the third-highest ever. He also won the inaugural Archie Griffin Award, given to the nation’s top player and also an ESPY for being the top player in college football.
Vick returned as the starting quarterback for the Hokies in 2000 and expectations were through the roof. Vick had several memorable performances including rushing for over 200 yards in a win over Boston College. Vick also accounted for almost 300 yards of offense in a blowout win over West Virginia and led the Hokies to a come-from-behind win at Syracuse, where the Hokies had not win since 1986. Unfortunately, Vick was injured in a win over Pittsburgh and he would miss the next two games, a win over Central Florida and loss against a loaded Miami squad. The Hokies were ranked No. 2 and the ‘Canes No. 3 entering that game. Imagine if Vick had played in that game, could the Hokies have went to the national championship two straight years?
Vick returned for the Gator Bowl where the Hokies blew out Clemson 41-20 as Vick passed for 205 yards and touchdowns, while also rushing for a score. He was named the game’s MVP. For the season, Vick completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,234 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions. He also rushed for 617 yards and eight touchdowns.
After that season, Vick entered the 2001 NFL Draft, where he was the No. 1 overall selection by the Atlanta Falcons, who had acquired the pick from the San Diego Chargers. Vick was timed at 4.33 seconds in the 40 at his pro day, which was the fastest time ever for a quarterback.
Vick went to the NFL and took the league by storm for a few seasons. Not only did he become the first quarterback in league history to rush for 1,000 yards, he also graced the cover of Madden.
HIs career took a hiatus in 2007 when he pleaded guilty to his part in a dog fighting scandal on property he owned. He would miss two seasons before making a triumphant return with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. Vick looked like he never missed a beat. The Eagles traded Donovan McNabb and benched Kevin Kolb and the job belonged to Vick. His performance in a Monday night game against the Redskins was legendary. Vick passed for 333 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 80 yards and two more scores. The NFL Hall of Fame requested his jersey after that historic performance.
Vick would play five seasons with the Eagles in total before spending one season with the Jets and another with the Steelers before his career ended after the 2015 season. In total, Vick played 13 NFL seasons, passed for over 22,000 yards, 133 touchdowns, rushed for 6,109 yards and 38 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl on four different occasions and owns the NFL record for most rushing yards by a quarterback for his career, single season and yards per attempt.
Vick would be inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 2017 and his jersey is retired. Vick is not only the greatest quarterback in school history, but one of the most exciting players in the history of both college football and the NFL. Vick elevated Virginia Tech to another level and will always be beloved by Hokie Nation.