Michael Vick: Impressive off the field, too
by Christian Moody '89
The only man to ever win two Heisman Trophies, Ohio State's Archie Griffin, stood before a group of Buckeye boosters in Roanoke on June 1, answering questions about college football and his prolific career. "I am asked all the time whether, in this day and age, anyone will ever again be able to win two Heisman Trophies. I say 'Yes, Michael Vick can.'"
On the heels of a freshman season so successful he finished third in Heisman balloting, tying Herschel Walker for the highest-ever finish by a freshman, Michael Vick (sociology '02) is being touted for the Heisman as a sophomore. His confident smile appears on the cover of a plethora of football magazines full of prognostications about the 2000 season and the Hokies' prospects for a national championship. Heady stuff for a 20-year-old amateur player who had never flown on a commercial airliner a year ago. Will publicity like this go to his head?
"Naw, I'm not going to change," Vick says. "I've got to stay humble. I can't get the big head, that wouldn't be me."
Head coach Frank Beamer (distributive education '69) agrees: "Mike's not going to change. He's a great player and a great guy. I like being around him. He's a leader, but he doesn't put himself above anyone. Mike commands respect from his teammates because they see him working as hard as anyone on the team."
|Michael Vick probably appeared on the cover of more magazine covers this fall than a top super model. ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated are just two of many whose covers have featured the Hokies' hot quarterback.
Beamer says that Vick impresses almost everyone he meets, not as a player, but as a person. "I have a letter on my desk from an alum who says he met Michael in a restaurant recently. He says Mike talked with his family and was very cordial, signed autographs, and was very polite."
Not many college students are even asked for autographs in restaurants, but Vick obliges, especially if he can meet a child. The talented quarterback speaks to school children whenever he can, including the classmates of his little sister last season before the Sugar Bowl. "I tell them to work hard, get an education, and respect their parents," he says.
His talk about education is not just bluster from a future millionaire-athlete biding his time and eligibility until he chases riches in the National Football League. He is a sociology major and serious student. "I take the classwork very seriously. I came to Virginia Tech for the educational opportunities. Getting a degree is just as important to me as playing football."
Vick says that the classroom is one place an autograph request is inappropriate. "For me, the classroom is the same as the football field. It wouldn't be right for someone to ask for an autograph while I'm on the field." Not that autograph requests from fellow students are common. Maybe he is a national celebrity; on campus, Mike Vick is a Timberland-boot-and-baggy-jeans wearing student, not an Armani suit, egotistical athlete. He's a Tech student, just like tens of thousands of others.
Well, not like all the others, says Chris Helms, coordinator of the Student Athlete Office of Academic Enrichment. "Michael has demands on his time well beyond the norm, even for athletes." Last December, he had to go to New York for the Heisman presentation just prior to exam week. Then there was the trip to Las Vegas to pick up an Espy Award during an ESPN special. While other athletes are in the athletic center for practice, conditioning, and study hall, Vick also has dozens of interview requests. His time is demanded so extensively the athletic department was forced to restrict all interviews to just 15 minutes.
Helms says he can see Vick's dedication to getting his education. "Considering everything he has to deal with, he is very active with our programs. He is on track to get his degree in four years, and he works very hard on the academics. I would say he's above average" in the amount of dedication he devotes to academics. "Academically, Vick let us know he came in here with a degree in mind, and he's never lost sight of that."
Like all Hokie fans, Helms knows that Vick will have opportunities coming his way earlier than most students. The NFL does not require a degree, and the biggest question surrounding the stellar quarterback is, "How many more years will he stay before bolting for the NFL?" As a benchmark, consider that in the 1999 NFL draft, Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb was selected third and became a multi-millionaire the day he signed his contract. Just months before that, Vick, then 18 and a true freshman playing on the scout team during his redshirt season, was given the task of emulating McNabb in practice. One Tech assistant coach told boosters that during the week before that game, Vick ran the Syracuse offense better than McNabb.
The person to ask is Vick, obviously, but don't expect a direct answer. "The NFL is not in my agenda right now. I know there are bigger and better things if I'm blessed with the opportunity to go to the NFL, but this next season is all I'm thinking about right now."
What if the opposite happens and Vick hits a bump in the road? What if he has a game where he completes five of 26 passes with four interceptions? That's going to happen eventually to every quarterback. "I'll just come back the next week and play hard and make up for it," Vick says. He knows success is not guaranteed, and sometimes the football bounces in strange ways.
What did Jerry Rice do when he dropped a pass? Caught the next oneand the one after that. Rice is an example Vick likes to follow because of his renowned work ethic. Not one for flash or trash, Rice was successful because of his devotion to the minutia of the game. Vick's other hero, Michael Jordan, was known as the hardest worker on his team. He took every practice seriously; every film session was a chance to learn something to make himself better. That's how Vick says he approaches football. "I love practice. I really do," he notes.
With his sophomore season here, some are looking for nothing short of brilliance on every snap, while others predict a sophomore slump. Vick won't predict the future; he says he's blessed to have what he has and will work to make the future bright.