Some Thoughts as #7 Leaves
by Art Stevens
TSL Extra, Issue #3

Michael Vick was here just a minute ago.

And now heís gone.

It must be like some of the guys trying to tackle him felt over the course of Vickís two seasons in a Virginia Tech uniform. How did he get out of here so fast?

As Will Stewart wrote on Techsideline.comís main page, Michael, we hardly knew you.

His going away party, conducted at the branch of the Hampton Roads Boys and Girls Club where he spent so much time as a kid, was quite a scene.

TSL Extra was there, not that that makes us special. Everyone, it seems, was there. Family. Friends. Fellow Hokies. Coach Frank Beamer. Assistant coach Jim Cavanaugh. Media out the wazoo. And what seemed like half of Newport News. They applauded when he walked in, applauded when he walked out and applauded everything he said in between his entrance and exit.

Michael Vick the college kid became Michael Vick the professional athlete in a blur.

Here are a few thoughts on the whole scene and the whole subject:

Why did he announce it there?

It was actually a great choice of a venue.

For starters, he has too much class to go back to Tech and say, "Iím leaving." You just donít do that. You have your "Iím staying" sessions at the school, your departure sessions at home. Standard operating procedure.

Vick sure couldnít have had all those folks to his home, just a few blocks away. His future new home maybe, but not his childhood home. And good olí Warwick High, which would have been a nice option, didnít need the disruption with school in session.

Warwick wouldnít have been as nice a setting anyway. James "Poo" Johnson, the executive director of the Hampton Roads Boys and Girls Club, has known Vick for 13 years. Through those halls Vick ran as a kid. What better place to officially cut the ribbon on your manhood than at the spot where you had so much fun as a kid?

Did Vick make the right choice?

Absolutely. Daggone right. No question.

Absolutely not. No way. Talk about your mistakes.

Howís that for definitive? Actually, all of the answers are correct.

Vick, who wonít be 21 until June, talked many times of this being the hardest decision of his life. No joke. It was a decision where heíd be right and wrong all at once.

The right is simple. The money. Pro athletes today command the kind of cash that is often hard to imagine. Millions upon millions upon millions. Itíll be there next year? Probably. Maybe not. Ever hear of a knee injury? Not the kind that takes you out forever, but the kind that knocks your ability down several notches. Insurance can only cover so much.

If Vick doesnít go No. 1 in the draft, someone isnít thinking clearly and deserves to be fired. Heís the type of talent that comes along so rarely. Heís there and you have the pick, you take him. Be it the Chargers or some team that trades for the Chargers' No. 1 pick, that team ought to be "on the clock" for about ten seconds and only for that long if they say, "Michael Vick" very, very slowly.

At No. 1, Vick is looking at a $60 million deal. Try to imagine yourself as a 20-year-old with a mother who has worked hard her adult life providing for four children. Tell me youíd say no and mean it and Iíll call you a stew-mouthed liar.

That said, thereís no question Vick is NOT yet ready to be an NFL quarterback. Who is to say a year or two more at Tech would make him ready? Heíd become fundamentally better, sure, but heíd still have to learn more about pro style offenses and the system of the team that drafts him.

History hasnít been kind to early-departing quarterbacks. The week of Vickís declaration, John Markon of the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote an excellent column detailing that fact.

Will Vick be a successful National Football League quarterback?

Youíd darn sure think so, wouldnít you?

Vick can run like the wind.

He has an extremely strong arm thatís generally pretty accurate as well. Some folks say his throwing fundamentals are off and, if so, correcting them can only help.

He has a head for the game.

Go back to his redshirt freshman season, the game where Tech kicked the smithereens out of Syracuse (62-0 in case anyone has forgotten). Two plays very early in that game sum up the multiple gifts of Vick.

On second and nine from the Syracuse 10, Vick found himself in serious trouble. A large loss was looming. He scrambled his way out of the jam. The play gained only three yards. It might have been the most impressive three-yard gain ever.

So now it is third and six from the seven. Vick comes to the line and, with about nine seconds on the play clock, sees something he doesnít like. He backs up and changes the play, gets back under center and gets the play off on time. A simple handoff and off-tackle run that gains the necessary six and gets Tech a first down on the one.

Yowza. How many quarterbacks, freshmen or no, would have had the presence of mind not to panic and call a timeout?

None of the above, however, guarantees his success. He wouldnít be the first guy with a bunch of talent to be less than successful.

Much depends on where he ends up. Norv Turner has landed in San Diego as offensive coordinator. Heís been lauded as been very good with quarterbacks but is that because he had Troy Aikman? He didnít do much with Heath Shuler. Was that Turner or Shuler? Also, heís thought to be more comfortable with an Aikman-style quarterback (like the Chargersí Ryan Leaf).

Word seems to be that Seattle, with the seventh and 10th picks in the draft, is going to make a bid to get that top pick. Mike Holmgren might be a better coach for Vick.

Wherever he ends up, the team and its fans are going to have to be very, very patient. Donít you dare kill that golden goose to try to get more eggs now. If Vick gets into a good system and is given time, look out. Build a shelf that will hold many MVP trophies.

But if Vick goes somewhere and finds himself playing for different coaches and coordinators under different systems, he could end up as a bust through no fault of his own.

Did he do the Hokies wrong by saying heíd stay and then changing his mind?

I seriously wonder if he changed his mind. Itís difficult to believe his mind was really made up when he made his Dec. 15 declaration to stay another year.

The thought was good, the plan was misguided. Get it over with and deflect attention before the Gator Bowl. That worked, didnít it? A better plan would have been to say, "Folks, I have until Jan. 12. Iím not even going to worry about that now. Iíll play the Gator Bowl and then weigh the options. So letís focus on the game."

Might not have worked any better. Couldnít have worked any worse.

Donít blame Vick for anything. Heís 20 years old, still very young. Heís been blessed with incredible gifts, but that blessing comes with a price. He had to make a difficult choice.

Heís made it now and, as he said at his press conference, thereís no turning back.

Good luck, good sir.

 

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