Skip to main content
Select Source:

Vick, Michael

Michael Vick

1980—

Football player

As a quarterback for the National Football League's (NFL) Atlanta Falcons, Michael Vick changed the prospects for that franchise and the game of football itself. In the history of the game, there have been few players who have been able to combine the classic characteristics of a great quarterback—a strong and accurate throwing arm and the intelligence and work ethic to master a complicated offensive system and think on his feet—with the stunning athleticism most often associated with a running back or cornerback as well as Vick. Vick could throw the ball accurately more than sixty yards, and in his second year in the NFL, he threw only eight interceptions against sixteen touchdowns. But what made Vick so special might not even show up on the statistics sheet. Even though he rushed for 777 yards in the 2002 season on 113 attempts, the plays he made evading opposing defensive players to avoid sacks or turning a short gain into a long gain were what captured the imagination of football fans across the country. As he told Michael Silver of Sports Illustrated, "Sometimes, I swear I think my body moves on its own, and I amaze myself." Vick's career was cut short and his reputation irrevocably tarnished in 2007 when he was convicted of running an illegal dog-fighting operation.

Excelled at Football Early

Michael Vick was born on June 26, 1980, to Michael Boddie and Brenda Vick in Newport News, Virginia. Vick's mother was sixteen when she gave birth to her first son. With her mother's help, Brenda raised Vick and his three siblings by herself because Boddie spent two and a half years in the army and then traveled to various other locations looking for work. Vick grew up with his siblings and his mother in the Ridley Circle housing project. Even when Boddie moved back with the family, he worked long hours in the Newport News shipyards and rarely saw his family. One thing he did have time for was teaching his son the game of football, introducing Vick to the game at the age of three.

Even though Vick excelled at baseball and basketball, by the time he arrived at Warwick High School in 1994, he had given up all other sports to pursue his passion: football. As a child growing up in an urban housing project, Vick saw plenty of other kids his age go down the wrong path, but he was always focused on athletics as he told Paul Attner of the Sporting News, "Sports kept me off the streets. It kept me from getting into what was going on, the bad stuff. Lots of guys I knew have had bad problems. But if I had to, I would go fishing even if the fish weren't biting. Just to get out of there."

As a freshman in high school, Vick started at the quarterback position on the junior varsity. But after throwing twenty touchdown passes in his first six games, he was promoted to the starting quarterback of the varsity team. Vick proved he belonged at that level in his second game as a varsity starter, throwing for 433 yards on only 13 completions. Vick's coach Tommy Reamon, a former running back in the NFL, knew that he had a special player. In the off-season he sent the young prodigy to camps and worked with Vick alone. Reamon also gave Vick the freedom to make plays on his own—a trait that would serve him well as a quarterback at Virginia Tech and later in the NFL.

Became a Star at Virginia Tech

By the time he was a senior, Vick was considered one of the top high school prospects in the nation. When he finished his high school career, he had thrown for 4,846 yards and 43 touchdowns. Not only did he excel as a passer but also he ran for 1,048 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. Vick was one of the most heavily recruited prospects in the country and narrowed his choices to Syracuse and Virginia Tech. He liked the idea of following in the footsteps of Donovan McNabb, another mobile quarterback who would go on to the NFL, but Vick was swayed by his high school coach, who wanted him to go to Virginia Tech, and by the school's proximity to home. In the end, he joined Frank Beamer's Virginia Tech Hokies for the fall of 1998.

Beamer red-shirted the freshman for his first year, which gave Vick the time to learn the offense and adapt to college life. The eighteen-year-old got homesick at times, including one occasion when he called his mother at 4:00 in the morning, imploring her to pick him up and let him spend the weekend at home. Even so, he persevered through his freshman year and eventually saw the value of sitting out a full season as he told Sports Illustrated's Lars Anderson, "Before I took my first snap, I wanted to be in control of the offense, know where the players were, how to read defenses. These are all things I learned when I sat out."

Vick began the quest for a starter's job in the spring of his freshman year. Physically, he was unmatched by anyone on the team and easily overshadowed any of the other quarterbacks. He ran a 4.3-second forty-yard dash and recorded a kangaroo-like vertical leap of forty and a half inches. In the spring practice game, he completed just three of ten passes, but he impressed his coaches and teammates with his ability to improvise and make something out of nothing. He won the job as the team's starting quarterback and was fit into a unit that was deep on offense and quick and aggressive on defense. Vick proclaimed his place in college football in his first game—a 47-0 defeat of James Madison. The game included a spectacular play in which Vick scored a touchdown on a diving somersault into the end zone. The vault was played on every sports station across the country.

The Vick legend continued to grow as the Hokies racked up victory after victory, including leading his team on a game-winning scoring drive from its own fifteen-yard line with a little more than a minute remaining in a game against rival West Virginia. Vick led his team to an undefeated regular season as the giants of college football fell one after another. By the end of the season, only two undefeated teams were left standing: Vick's Hokies and college football juggernaught Florida State University.

At a Glance …

Born Michael Dwayne Vick on June 26, 1980, in Newport News, VA; son of Michael Boddie and Brenda Vick; children: Michael Jr. Education: Virginia Tech University, 1998-2000.

Career: Atlanta Falcons, quarterback, 2001-06.

Awards: All-American, 1997; Sporting News First Team All America, 1999; Big East Offensive Player of the Year, 1999; Archie Griffin Award, 1999; ESPY Award, top college football player, 1999; Gator Bowl MVP, 2000.

Addresses: Office—Atlanta Falcons, 4400 Falcon Parkway, Flowery Branch, GA 30542.

Impressive Bowl Game Followed by Injury

Even though Florida State won the Sugar Bowl 46-29, the player who made the biggest impact on the game was Vick. Virginia Tech trailed at one point early in the game by three touchdowns until Vick took the game over and led his team to a 29-28 lead. Vick told Silver about his reaction to his team's falling flat in the biggest college football game of the year, "We went down 28-7 and I gathered everyone around and said, ‘Yo, it ain't going down like this. Somebody's got to step up. I guess it's going to be me.’" Despite Vick's unsuccessful efforts to lead his team to a victory, his improvisational brilliance was seen by the whole country in college football's biggest game. In his first year as a starter, Vick threw for 1,840 yards and 12 touchdowns and set an National Collegiate Athletic Association record for passing efficiency by a freshman (180.37). As a rusher, he gained 585 yards and added 8 touchdowns. Vick was made a member of the Sporting News All-America team and was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Year. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and, as a nineteen-year-old, attended his first ESPY Award show to receive acclaim as the nation's top college football player.

After the glory of his first season as Virginia Tech's signal caller, Vick was asked to top his freshman achievements, which proved to be a difficult task. In his sophomore season, Vick led his team to a 6-0 start, but then he sprained his ankle against Pittsburgh and was sidelined against the powerful Miami Hurricanes. Vick's team lost 41-21 without their leader, and a chance for another undefeated season was lost. Virginia Tech would go on to win the Gator Bowl, and Vick would be named the team's most valuable player, but after an injury-riddled season in which defenses were prepared mostly just for him, his numbers were down. Vick completed 87 of 161 passes with 8 touchdowns and rushed for another 607 yards. After the season, Vick was continually asked about his status for the following year. Because he did not have the season that he and everyone else who followed college football expected him to have, Vick's initial leaning was to return to Virginia Tech for one more season. However, when he learned that he would be the top pick of the NFL draft, he decided to forego his final season and declared that he would be leaving school to join the NFL for the 2001 season.

Joined the Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons moved aggressively to trade up to the number-one pick in the draft to ensure that they would get Vick. The organization followed through with their plan, making Vick the first pick overall of the 2001 draft and signed him to a six-year deal worth up to $62 million. Falcon's coach Dan Reeves planned to bring Vick along slowly in his first season and use him in certain situations and with a limited amount of plays, but when starting quarterback Chris Chandler was injured, Vick was forced into the starting lineup. He started against Dallas and St. Louis and played in five other games. Even though the Falcons saw glimpses of greatness in his first year, Vick turned the ball over too often. Part of the problem was the rookie had trouble memorizing all the plays in Reeves' complicated offense. Vick commented on this aspect of his difficult rookie season to Silver, saying, "There was so much verbiage, and instead of studying routes or coverages, I came to practice just worried about getting the names of the plays out. As the backup [to Chandler] I'd get eight reps, and I'd hold up practice because I screwed up six of them."

In his next year in Atlanta, the Falcons made it clear that it was Vick's time to shine. The club released Chandler and handed the reins of the offense over to the talented youngster. Reeves also simplified the playbook to ease the second-year player's time not only learning the offense but also learning the terms used in the offense. Vick told Sports Illustrated's Josh Miller about his own preparation for the new season: "I always knew I had the physical ability to perform, but my confidence wasn't where it needed to be. I knew that I had to work the entire off-season to prepare. I studied my playbook every day, even if it meant locking myself in my bedroom when Mom came to visit. I watched all my plays from last year. It's what I had to do." Vick led his team to the playoffs in his first year as a starter and was talked about as the new prototype for the quarterback of the future. The improved defense and new quarterback led the Falcons from a 6-10 team to a 9-7 team. At one point in the season, Vick led his team to a seven-game unbeaten streak, and the Falcons and their quarterback were the hottest topic in the NFL. Even though the team hit a tough part of the schedule at the end of the season, the Falcons made the playoffs. However, their reward for such a fine season was a trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to play the Packers—a team that had never lost a playoff game on their frigid home turf. Vick led his team up north and did what many thought was impossible. Atlanta did not just beat the Packers, rather they destroyed the heavily favored Green Bay team 27-7. The Falcons lost the following week to the Philadelphia Eagles, but Vick had led his team to a playoff win and respectability.

In the beginning of the 2003 season, Vick was sidelined due to a fractured fibula and was unable to play for the first eleven games of the season. When Vick returned in December, the Falcons were suffering from a losing streak of 2-9. The Falcon's regained prominence with Vick's return, but they were unable to achieve a spot in the 2003 divisional playoffs and came in fourth in the Southern Division of the National Football Conference. Vick was named to the 2004 pro bowl for his performance at the end of the regular season. The following season, with the team at full strength, the Falcons achieved a record of 9-6 and won the divisional playoffs against the St. Louis Rams before losing in the divisional championships to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Even though Vick continued to perform well, the team had a disappointing 2005 season, with a final record of 8-8. Regardless, Vick continued to win accolades for his performance and was named to a third pro bowl in 2005. In December of 2004 the Falcons offered Vick the most lucrative contract to that point in NFL history: $130 million over ten years. By the end of his 2006 season, Vick had achieved a number of league records, including the record for the greatest number of rushing yards in a single season.

Found Guilty for Dog Fighting

In June of 2007 a federal grand jury indicted Vick on charges of operating an illegal dog fighting and gambling operation in Virginia. The indictment came after investigators raided Vick's Bad Newz Kennels to search for evidence of dog fighting and seized dozens of animals as evidence. Even though Vick initially denied the charges, over the course of the investigation witnesses came forward claiming to have seen Vick executing dogs and handling proceeds from gambling operations. In August of 2007 Vick pled guilty to breeding dogs for illegal fighting and for executing a number of dogs that failed to perform. Vick was faced with a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. In the wake of his plea, the Atlanta Falcons announced the Vick would be removed from the team's roster on permanent suspension. Shortly thereafter, his promotional contracts, including an endorsement deal with Nike, were also suspended.

Even though most analysts believed that Vick would receive no more than twelve months' imprisonment, the case abruptly ended his promising career and brought national attention to dog fighting and animal rights issues. Many of his supporters defended him by saying that he was a product of his environment. However, as news spread about the cruelty with which he executed animals for Bad Newz Kennels, he became a widely reviled public figure. And even though Vick released public apologies to both his fans and animal rights enthusiasts, many analysts felt that there was little Vick could do to rehabilitate his reputation or return to the public's good favor.

In December of 2007 Vick was sentenced to twenty-three months' imprisonment for his role in the Bad Newz Kennels controversy. Even though there is no chance for parole in the federal legal system, with time reductions for good behavior, Vick may be potentially eligible for release in as little as three months. As for his potential to return to the NFL, officials said that they would consider that at a later time. John P. Goodwin, manager of animal fighting activities for the Humane Society, told Juliet Macur of the New York Times, "I think the judge sent a strong message to dogfighters that this is a dead-end activity, and for professional athletes, it's a career-killer."

Sources

Periodicals

Jet, January 17, 2005.

New York Times, November 6, 2003; December 1, 2003; August 21, 2007; August 28, 2007; December 11, 2007.

Sports Illustrated, January 13, 2000; September 2, 2002; December 2, 2002.

Sporting News, April 9, 2001.

Online

"Michael Vick," Jock Bio,http://www.jockbio.com/Bios/Vick/Vick_bio.html (accessed December 21, 2007).

—Michael J. Watkins and Micah L. Issit

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Vick, Michael." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Vick, Michael." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vick-michael

"Vick, Michael." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vick-michael

Vick, Michael 1980–

Michael Vick 1980

Professional football player

Excelled at Football Early

Became a Star at Virginia Tech

Impressive Bowl Game Followed by injury

Joined the Atlanta Falcons

Sources

As the quarterback for the National Football Leagues (NFL) Atlanta Falcons, Michael Vick is not only changing the prospects for that franchise, he is changing the game of football itself. In the history of the game, there have been few players who have been able to combine the classic characteristics of a great quarterbacka strong and accurate throwing arm and the intelligence and work ethic to master a complicated offensive system and think on his feetalong with the stunning athleticism most often associated with a running back or cornerback as well as Vick. Vick can throw the ball accurately more than 60 yards, and in his second year in the NFL threw only eight interceptions against 16 touchdowns. But what makes Vick so special might not even show up on the statistics sheet. Though he did rush for 777 yards in the 2002 season on 113 attempts, the plays he made evading opposing defensive players to avoid sacks or turning a short gain into a long gain are what captured the imagination of football fans across the country. As he told Michael Silver of Sports Illustrated, Sometimes, I swear I think my body moves on its own, and I amaze myself.

Excelled at Football Early

Michael Dwayne Vick was born on June 26, 1980, to Brenda Vick and Michael Bod-die in Newport News, Virginia. Vicks mother was sixteen when she gave birth to her first son. With her mothers help, Brenda raised the couples four children by herself because Boddie spent two and a half years in the army and then traveled to various other locations looking for work. Vick grew up with his three siblings and his mother in the Ridley Circle housing project. Even when Boddie moved back with the family, he worked long hours in the Newport News shipyards and rarely saw his family. One thing he did have time for was teaching his son the game of football, introducing Vick to the game at the age of three.

Though Vick excelled at baseball and basketball also, by the time he arrived at Warwick High School in 1994, he had given up all other sports to pursue his passionfootball. As a child growing up in an urban housing project, Vick saw plenty of other kids his age go down the wrong path, but he was always focused on athletics as he told Paul Attner of The Sporting News:

At a Glance

Born Michael Dwayne Vick on June 26, 1980, in Newport News, VA; children: Michael, Jr. Education: Virginia Tech University, 1998-2000.

Career: Atlanta Falcons, quarterback, 2001.

Awards: All-American, 1997; The Sporting News First Team All America, 1999; Big East Offensive Player of the Year, 1999; Archie Griffin Award, 1999; ESPY Award, top college football player, 1999; Gator Bowl MVP; 2000.

Address: Office Atlanta Falcons, 4400 Falcon Parkway, Flowery Branch, GA 30542.

Sports kept me off the streets. It kept me from getting into what was going on, the bad stuff. Lots of guys I knew have had bad problems. But if I had to, I would go fishing even if the fish werent biting. Just to get out of there.

As a freshman in high school, Vick started at the quarterback position on the junior varsity. But after throwing 20 touchdown passes in his first six games, Vick was promoted to the starting quarterback of the varsity team. Vick proved he belonged at that level in his second game as a varsity starter, throwing for 433 yards on only 13 completions. Vicks coach Tommy Reamon, a former running back in the NFL, knew that he had a special player. In the off-season he sent the young prodigy to camps and worked with Vick alone. Reamon also gave Vick the freedom to make plays on his owna trait that would serve him well as a quarterback at Virginia Tech and later in the NFL.

Became a Star at Virginia Tech

By the time he was a senior, Vick was considered one of the top high school prospects in the nation. When he finished his high school career, he had thrown for 4,846 yards and 43 touchdowns. Not only did he excel as a passer, he also ran for 1,048 yards and scored 18 touchdowns on the ground. Vick was one of the most heavily recruited prospects in the country and narrowed his choices to Syracuse and Virginia Tech. He liked the idea of following in the footsteps of Donovan McNabb, another mobile quarterback who would go on to the NFL, but Vick was swayed by his high school coach, who wanted him to go to Virginia Tech, and the schools proximity to home. In the end he would join Frank Beamers Virginia Tech Hokies for the fall of 1998. As he promised Reamon, Beamer red-shirted the freshman for his first year, which gave Vick the time to learn the offense and adapt to college life. The 18-year-old got homesick at times, including one occasion when he called his mother at 4:00 a.m. imploring her to pick him up and let him spend the weekend at home. Vick persevered through his freshman year and even eventually saw the value of sitting out a full season as he told Sports Illustrateds Lars Anderson: Before I took my first snap, I wanted to be in control of the offense, know where the players were, how to read defenses. These are all things I learned when I sat out.

Vick began the quest for a starters job in the spring of his freshman year. Physically he was unmatched by anyone on the team and easily overshadowed any of the other quarterbacks. He ran a 4.3 second 40-yard dash and recorded a kangaroo-like vertical leap of 40 and a half inches. In the spring practice game, he completed just three of ten passes, but he impressed his coaches and teammates with his ability to improvise and make something out of nothing. He won the job as the teams starting quarterback and was fit into a unit that was deep on offense and quick and aggressive on defense. Vick proclaimed his place in college football in his first gamea 47-0 defeat of James Madison. The game included a spectacular play in which Vick scored a touchdown on a diving somersault into the end zone. The vault was played on every sports station across the country.

The Vick legend continued to grow as the Hokies racked up victory after victory, including leading his team on a game-winning scoring drive from its own 15-yard line with a little more than a minute remaining in a game against rival West Virginia. Vick led his team to an undefeated regular season even as the giants of college football fell one after another. By the end of the year, only two undefeated teams were left standing, Vicks Hokies and college football juggernaught Florida State University.

Impressive Bowl Game Followed by injury

Though Florida State would win the Sugar Bowl 46-29, the player who made the biggest impact on the game was Vick. Virginia Tech trailed at one point early in the game by three touchdowns until Vick took the game over and led his team to a 29-28 lead. Vick told Sports Illustrateds Silver about his reaction to his teams falling flat in the biggest college football game of the year: We went down 28-7 and I gathered everyone around and said, Yo, it aint going down like this. Somebodys got to step up. I guess its going to be me. Despite Vicks efforts to lead his team to a one-point lead, it was all Florida State thereafter, but Vicks improvisational brilliance was seen by the whole country in college footballs biggest game. In his first year as a starter Vick threw for 1,840 yards and 12 touchdowns and set an NCAA record for passing efficiency by a freshman (180.37). As a rusher he gained 585 yards and added eight touchdowns. Vick was named to The Sporting News All-America team and was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Year. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting and, as a 19-year-old, attended his first ESPY Award show to receive acclaim as the nations top college football player.

After the glory of his first season as Virginia Techs signal caller, Vick was asked to top his freshman achievements, which proved to be a difficult task. In his sophomore season Vick led his team to a 6-0 start, but then he sprained his ankle against Pittsburgh and was sidelined against the powerful Miami Hurricanes. Vicks team lost 41-21 without their leader and a chance for another undefeated season was lost. Vicks team would go on to win the Gator Bowl and Vick would be named the teams MVP, but after an injury-riddled season in which defenses were prepared mostly just for him, his numbers were down. Vick completed 87 of 161 passes with eight touchdowns and rushed for another 607 yards. After the season Vick was continually asked about his status for the following year. Since he had not had the season that he and everyone else who followed college football expected him to have, Vicks initial leaning was to return to Virginia Tech for one more season. Then the likelihood that he would be the top pick of the draft prompted him to forego his final season and declare that he would be leaving school and joining the NFL for the 2001 season.

Joined the Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons moved aggressively to trade up to the number one pick in the draft to ensure that they could take Vick. The organization followed through with their plan making Vick the first pick overall of the 2001 draft and signed him to a six-year deal worth up to $62 million. Falcons coach Dan Reeves planned to bring Vick along slowly in his first season and use him in certain situations and with a limited amount of plays, but when starting quarterback Chris Chandler was injured, Vick was forced into the starting lineup. He started against Dallas and St. Louis and played in five other games. Though the Falcons saw glimpses of greatness in his first year, Vick turned the ball over too often. Part of the problem was the rookie had trouble memorizing all the plays in Reeves complicated offense. Vick commented on this aspect of his difficult rookie season to Sports Illustrateds Silver, saying, There was so much verbiage, and instead of studying routes or coverages, I came to practice just worried about getting the names of the plays out. As the backup (to Chandler) Id get eight reps, and Id hold up practice because I screwed up six of them.

In his next year in Atlanta, the Falcons made it clear that it was Vicks time to shine. The club released Chandler and handed the reins of the offense over to the talented youngster. Reeves also simplified the play-book to ease the second-year players time not only learning the offense, but learning the terms used in the offense. Vick told Sports Illustrateds Josh Miller about his own preparation for the new season: I always knew I had the physical ability to perform, but my confidence wasnt where it needed to be. I knew that I had to work the entire off-season to prepare. I studied my playbook every day, even if it meant locking myself in my bedroom when Mom came to visit. I watched all my plays from last year. Its what I had to do. Vick led his team to the playoffs in his first year as a starter and was talked about as the new prototype for the quarterback of the future. The improved defense and new quarterback led the Falcons from a 6-10 team to a 9-7 team. At one point in the season, Vick led his team to a seven-game unbeaten streak and the Falcons and their quarterback were the hottest topic in the NFL. Though the team hit a tough part of the schedule at the end of the season, the Falcons made the playoffs, but their reward for such a fine season was a trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to play the Packersa team that had never lost a playoff game on their frigid home turf. Vick led his team up north and did what many thought was impossible. Atlanta not only beat the Packers, they destroyed the heavily favored Green Bay team 27-7. Though the Falcons lost the following week to the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick had led his team to a playoff win and respectability.

Sources

Periodicals

Sports Illustrated, January 13, 2000; September 2, 2002; December 2, 2002.

Sporting News, April 9, 2001.

On-line

Michael Vick, Jock Bio, www.jockbio.com/Bios/Vick/Vick_bio.html (April 17, 2003).

Michael J. Watkins

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Vick, Michael 1980–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Vick, Michael 1980–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vick-michael-1980

"Vick, Michael 1980–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/vick-michael-1980