Meeting Michael Vick (Kind Of)

By Terrance Turner

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Promotional poster for the Empowerment Tour. Courtesy of Vick’s Facebook page.

Earlier today, former NFL quarterback and Fox Sports analyst Michael Vick came to THE Texas Southern University as part of his Empowerment Tour. The speaking tour has brought Vick to several notable HBCUs, including Alcorn State and Florida A&M University. This afternoon, inside TSU’s College of Education Building, Vick spoke openly about his career, retirement, and current endeavors. He talked candidly about his failures, his successes, and the lessons he learned from both.

Vick made history in 2001 as the first black quarterback to be drafted No. 1 overall. The Atlanta Falcons drafted Vick after a stellar collegiate career with Virginia Tech, where he led the Hokies to an undefeated season and the Sugar Bowl championship game. Despite his success, everything wasn’t all roses for Vick and his family: “My family was still back home, living in the projects. I walked around as the best player in the country, but I had no money sometimes,” he revealed. “But I was happy on the inside, with what I’d accomplished.”

What he’d accomplish with the Falcons would be even more impressive. During the 2002 season, Vick broke records for passing yards and completions. He also set an NFL record for the most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback (173) in December 2002. He was named to the Pro Bowl that year — the first of four Pro Bowl spots he’d earn during his career.

Vick opened up about the pressure he felt during this time: “It was like the minute I got drafted, the pressure was not to be a bust. ‘Cause you only get three years in the league, on any contract — whether you’re a first-round pick or a second-round pick. You know, it’s always constantly about improving and getting better.” But he had other concerns — his friends, his entourage, his cash flow. “I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he admitted.

That pressure was augmented by media scrutiny, especially after news broke in 2007 about a dogfighting ring involving Vick. The resulting investigation and media coverage tarnished Vick’s image, cost him millions, forced him to file for bankruptcy, and landed him two years in prison. After serving his sentence, however, Vick was reinstated. He joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009. In the 2010 season, Vick shined. He led the Eagles to the playoffs and helped them win the NFC East title. Vick continued to play, with varying degrees of success, until his 2017 retirement. Vick is now a Fox Sports NFL analyst and public speaker. He touched on all of this during his appearance at TSU, answering audience questions about his fall from grace, eventual comeback, and life post-retirement.

Afterwards, admirers lined up near a merchandise table for an autograph session and photo op with Vick. Predictably, the lines were lengthy and disjointed. I got to the front after roughly 20 minutes, only to learn that you couldn’t take a picture unless you’d bought merchandise. So I bought a $20 T-shirt and went to the back of the line.

“Have all of your phones out and on camera,” the police told us, over and over again. I complied, and once I finally got back to the front, I made sure my newly purchased shirt was visible. I approached Mr. Vick, shook his hand, and handed my phone to one of his handlers, so he could take our picture.

Big mistake.

I promise I was more excited than this.

This is what happens when you participate in a rushed photo op and trust other people with your phone.

For the record, Vick himself was great — relaxed and approachable, he posed for endless photos and signed God knows how many T-shirts. (The guy in front of me wanted Vick to sign his leg so he could get it tatted. Not sure how that went.) I thanked Vick for visiting our HBCU, stating that his appearance would mean a lot to the high school/college kids there.

“I appreciate that,” I remember him saying as he gamely signed my T-shirt.

And in a flash, it was over. Just like this post. Check back later for more from today’s revealing chat with Michael Vick.

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