Michael Vick: From Stardom to Redemption

On Friday afternoon, NFL quarterback Michael Vick officially announced his decision to retire. This announcement came after weeks of speculation since the 36-year-old wasn’t snagged by a team during the 2016 season.

The road leading to his retirement was unique and heartbreaking in many ways. He emerged from Virginia Tech as a unicorn, being the prototype of a real dual-threat quarterback while throwing lefty, a combination that is a dime a dozen in the NFL.

During his freshman season at Virginia Tech, Vick landed a spot in the Heisman race at the end of the 1999 season. He finished third in votes, putting him in the same sentence as Herschel Walker for the highest finish ever for a freshman up to that point. In just two seasons at Virginia Tech, Vick racked up 21 passing touchdowns for over 3,000 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns for over 1,2000 yards. This placed him in the Heisman race, where he won third place in voting and declared for the draft after his sophomore season.

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Photo via New York Times.

The Atlanta Falcons chose Vick in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, making him the very first Black quarterback to be taken with the first pick. His six-year, $62 million contract was his first taste of the pros and there was no turning back. In his five seasons in Atlanta, he led them to the playoffs twice- once in 2002 after a 9-6-1 regular season record and first-round playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles; and again in 2004 with an 11-5 record and first-round bye, but again lost to the Donovan McNabb-led Eagles.

His rise came just as quickly as his fall from grace. In 2007, evidence of a dog fighting ring surfaced and Vick’s name was tied to it. It turns out that Vick, who was 27 at the time, had been providing money for the gambling side of the operation and allowed it to happen on one of his Atlanta properties. Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vick indefinitely and the Falcons let him go after he was sentenced to 23 months in prison.

When he was released in 2009 and signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, it was a chance for him to redeem himself and add more records to the history books. He started off as the backup to Donovan McNabb, but that would change after the starter was traded to the Washington Redskins in 2010. The next few years were riddled by success and injury, and eventually losing the starting role to Nick Foles. Vick split his last two season with the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Photo via Sporting News.

When it comes to Michael Vick, it’s hard to think about what could’ve been if he didn’t lose those seasons to jail time. He ended his career with a single-season QB rushing yards record (1,039) and the career QB rushing record (6,109 yards). He’s one of a handful of examples of how the NFL seems to care more about animals than players that have domestic violence cases against them.

As we prepare to watch the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl tomorrow, it’s important to remember how prolific Michael Vick was in bringing a spark to the team and making them relevant again. Thank you, Michael Vick, for paving the way for the Lamar Jacksons and Deshaun Watsons. Salute.

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