In the first of two articles, Chris Milner looks at Michael Vick’s upbringing and the first half of his NFL career
Few players in NFL history have been more polarising than Michael Vick.
To some he revolutionised the game of football, to others he is nothing more than a criminal.
When you look at the history of Vick, his professional football career and public life have been intertwined so deeply that you can’t talk of one without mentioning the other.
If I had to sum up Michael Vick in two words, those words would be “Yeah” and “But.”
Vick grew up in Newport News in Virginia, a town that I once drove through for a comedy show and remember thinking to myself “I’m glad we’re not stopping here.”
Because Newport News is rough. Very rough.
As in, most people will end up on drugs or in jail rough, and that was in 2017.
Yeah… but Michael spent his childhood here in the 80’s. I don’t even want to think of how the neighbourhood was then.
However, Vick excelled at sports and it was this ability that paved a way out of “Bad News”, eventually landing him at Virginia Tech where he led the team to an undefeated regular season, winning both the ESPY award as the nation’s best college player, and the first-ever Archie Griffin Award for college football’s MVP. As a freshman.
Vick decided not to finish his final two years of college and in the 2001 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons traded up to the number one pick to land him.
He began to start as quarterback for Atlanta the following year and would lead the Falcons to the playoffs, garnering his first Pro Bowl nod.
In 2004 he did it again, eventually losing out to the Eagles in the NFC Championship game. Vick was a different type of quarterback to those that had traditionally come before for many reasons.
Firstly, he was a young African-American who had grown up in an impoverished neighbourhood and played his way out of it, so for many other black kids, living in un-enviable circumstances around America, he was a role model under centre that they had never had before.
On the field he had a powerful arm, which was a given in the NFL, but he was also highly elusive, and fast. Boy, was he fast. His 40 yard dash time at the NFL Combine is still to this day the fastest ever recorded by a quarterback.
He was given a 99 for speed in Madden and was recently named the best 99 rated player of all time. The man was a walking cheat code and single-handedly created the idea of the ‘mobile quarterback’ bringing the read/option into offensive playbooks in a way it never had before.
It is not hyperbole to say he revolutionised the way the game was played. Yeah. But this style of play didn’t come without a cost.
Vick was constantly getting hurt. In fact I used to make easy money most every year by betting a fan of the team Vick was playing for that he wouldn’t make it through the season without missing at least one game.
Sprained shoulders, broken fibula’s, pulled hamstrings, busted rib cartilage and concussions all contributed to time spent on the sidelines.
Yeah, but when he was on the field, the man was simply electrifying.
His cleats are still in the Hall of Fame for the most rushing yards in a game (173) by a quarterback, which he achieved in 2002 against the Minnesota Vikings, and in 2006 he became the first quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season at an astounding average of 8.4 yards per carry.
Unfortunately, despite his personal performance numbers remaining good, the Falcons weren’t repeating their earlier successes with Vick at the helm, going 8-8 in 2005 and 7-9 in 2006.
Regardless, it is still clear that without Michael Vick, Atlanta could have only dreamed of the successes they achieved with him as their quarterback, and as an individual Vick was a generational talent whose professional prowess and mind-blowing athleticism will be remembered by all NFL fans forever.
Yeah, but… the dogs.
Join us on monday for the second part of Michael Vick’s story
Chris Milner aka “Proper Football” is co-host of the Same Level Fantasy Football podcast, a former Washington D.C. resident and Redskins fan (for his sins) he is a self styled fantasy football expert having won his league one time. He is also clearly a comedian.. Follow him on Twitter
@chrismilner or listen to the pod @samelevel #HTTR