Michael Dwayne Vick was born in Newport News, Virginia, on June 26, 1980, to Brenda Vick and Michael Boddie. Michael showed early talent and drew NFL attention while playing for Virginia Tech. As a freshman, Michael placed third in the 1999 Heisman Trophy balloting and the following year placed sixth. He left Virginia Tech after his sophomore year to enter the NFL and was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft. Michael became the first African-American quarterback to be selected first overall in an NFL Draft. In six seasons with the Falcons, he gained wide popularity for his performance on the field and led the Falcons to the playoffs twice. As a multi-dimensional threat from the quarterback position, Michael is enjoying the second phase of his NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Michael’s mother was 17 when she gave birth to her first son. The second of four children, Michael learned early on the meaning of hard work. His mother worked two jobs, obtained some public financial assistance, and had help from her parents, while his father served in the army and later put in long hours at the shipyards. The pair married when Michael was about five years old, but the children elected to continue to use their mother’s last name. Michael grew up with his three siblings, Christina, Courtney and Marcus, and their mother in the Ridley Circle Housing Project. Despite his meager surroundings, Michael was an upbeat, polite and focused child. His father played an integral role in Michael’s passion for football. He was three when his father (nicknamed “Bullet” for his blinding speed during his own playing days on the gridiron) began teaching Michael the fundamentals of throwing the pigskin.
As a child growing up in an urban housing project, Michael saw plenty of other kids go down the wrong path, but he was always focused on athletics
Michael also learned a lot from his older cousin, Aaron Brooks, former NFL quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. Brook’s best season came in 2003 when he threw for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a grade schooler, Michael followed Aaron wherever he went, including the Hampton Roads Boys and Girls Club. There Michael gained a reputation for his hard work and dedication to the games of football, baseball and basketball. By junior high, however, his adolescent angst got the best of him, and he became a disciplinary problem for his teachers. His mother pushed him to get involved in after-school activities. Michael chose to concentrate on football and basically gave up all other sports in the ninth grade. He modeled himself after Steve Young, another lefty who could beat you with his arm or his legs.
Michael came into prominence at Ferguson High School in the fall of 1994. As a freshman, he impressed many with his athletic ability, throwing for over 400 yards in a game that year. When the school was shut down in 1996, he transferred to Warwick High School. There Michael was coached by Tommy Reamon, who was happy to have Michael on the team. Coach Reamon knew a little about playing football at a high level. After a storied career as a running back at the University of Missouri in the early 1970s, he went on to stardom in the World Football League. Reamon was named league MVP in 1975. A year later, he hooked up with the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1976 Reamon gained 450 yards from scrimmage and scored five touchdowns, then called it quits.
Coach Reamon liked what he saw from Michael, but felt the teenager would be best served by a year on the junior varsity. In Michael’s first six JV games, he tossed 20 touchdown passes. Meanwhile, Warwick’s varsity was struggling. Searching for a spark, Coach Reamon moved his starting quarterback to wide receiver and promoted Michael to the varsity. In his second start, he really aired it out, throwing for 433 yards on just 13 completions.
Over the next three years, Michael’s reputation grew. Coach Reamon sent him to football camps every summer and tutored him privately. Knowing that Warwick wasn’t particularly big or strong across the line, he encouraged Michael to improvise on offense. The freedom helped him to develop his trademark style. By the end of 1997, Michael was considered among the top five high school signal callers in the country. As a three-year starter for the Raiders, he passed for 4,846 yards with 43 touchdowns. He ran for six touchdowns and threw for three touchdowns in a single game. He added 1,048 yards and 18 scores on the ground. As a senior, he passed for 1,668 yards, accounting for ten passing and ten rushing touchdowns.
Michael was a playmaker, pure and simple. With the right tutoring and teammates, no one doubted he had the talent to become a great college quarterback. College coaches nationwide recruited him. Eventually, Michael narrowed his choices down to Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Coach Reamon helped him and his family choose between Syracuse University and Virginia Tech. Coach Reamon favored Virginia Tech and sold Michael on the idea of the close proximity to family and friends and where he felt better guidance was available under Coach Frank Beamer, who promised to redshirt him and provide the freshman needed time to develop. Michael listened to his high school coach and became a Hokie.
In his first collegiate game as a redshirt freshman against James Madison in 1999, Michael scored three rushing touchdowns in just over one quarter of play. During the season, Michael led a last-minute game-winning drive against West Virginia in the annual Black Diamond Trophy game. He led the Hokies to an 11–0 season and to the Bowl Championship Series national title game in the Nokia Sugar Bowl against Florida State. Although Virginia Tech lost 46–29, Michael was able to bring the team back from a 21-point deficit to take a brief lead. During the season, Michael appeared on the cover of an ESPN The Magazine issue.
As his sophomore campaign drew to a close, Michael had to decide whether he was going to stay and play or move to the NFL, where it appeared he might be a first-round pick. This was not a simple decision. An option quarterback going pro after just two seasons would be a leap of unprecedented proportions.
Initially, Michael’s instincts told him to stay put for one more season. But when it became evident that he would be a Top 5 pick, he began to reconsider. Aware that the rest of his family was still living in their three bedroom apartment in the Ridley Circle Homes, a few weeks into 2001, Michael announced that he would forego his final two years at Virginia Tech and enter the NFL Draft.
The Atlanta Falcons moved aggressively to trade up to the number one pick in the draft to ensure they could take Michael. The organization followed through with their plan making Michael the first pick overall in the 2001 NFL Draft and signed him to a six-year contract. Falcons Coach Dan Reeves, planned to bring Michael along slowly in his first season, using him in certain situations and with a limited amount of plays, but when starting quarterback Chris Chandler was injured, Michael was put into the starting lineup. Throughout the course of his rookie season, Michael earned the respect of his teammates with his modesty, punctuality and hard work ethic.
In his next year in Atlanta, the Falcons made it clear that it was Michael’s time to shine. The early returns on Atlanta’s off-season moves were positive. The Falcons played gutsy, competitive football in 2002. Their defense developed into one of the league’s stingier units, and surrender was no longer a part of their vocabulary. Of course, the club’s most profound metamorphosis occurred on offense. And so much of that was due to Michael. At an age when most quarterbacks are still in college, he took the first steps toward becoming the bona fide leader of an NFL team. His teammates not only liked him, they looked up to him and trusted him—even those 10 years his senior.
In the final analysis, Michael’s first season as a starter was an unqualified success. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards, ran for almost 800 yards, and accounted for 24 touchdowns. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl. Most importantly, however, he showed the ability to win on the road in pressure situations. Throughout the course of the next three seasons, Michael saw his share of ups and downs – from a fractured fibula in 2003, which sidelined him from the action on the field, to leading the Falcons to winning the NFC South crown in 2004. Michael had a nice year, starting 15 games and throwing for 2,412 yards. He ran for another 597 and led the NFL at 5.9 yards per carry in 2005. The 2006 campaign saw Michael’s number rise, but his team’s fortunes drooped, with just seven victories. Atlanta actually had a chance to make the playoffs in a weak NFC but didn’t get the help it needed in the last two weeks. Twice during the year, Michael threw four touchdowns in a game. He finished the season with a career-best 20.
All the progress Michael made in 2006 took a back seat the following spring. His name surfaced during a spring dog-fighting probe, and as the facts unfolded, it appeared that he was deeply involved, along with friends and family members. Michael was implicated in everything from wagering on matches to approving the disposal of dogs that lost.
The fallout was swift and unforgiving. Animal rights groups protested in front of the Falcons’ offices. The media jumped on the story and detailed Michael’s willing participation in dogfighting. The NFL responded by suspending him indefinitely. Michael issued a public apology and took full responsibility for his actions. In July, he was indicted for animal cruelty. In the fall of 2007, Michael was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison—a term that some felt was harsh and others believed was completely deserved. Michael surrendered to authorities in November, nearly a month before he was required to do so. His conciliatory actions earned him sympathy from some fans, but many still demonized him as an example of today’s spoiled, ungrateful professional athletes.
After his release from prison, Michael was mentored by former Colts Coach Tony Dungy. The prospects of Michael returning to play professional football were the subject of much conjecture. With his name and reputation tarnished, his future was unclear until the announcement in early August 2009 that he had inked a contract with the Eagles. Earlier in the summer, Michael had been cleared to rejoin the NFL, although many wondered which team would take on the publicity problems that would accompany his signing. From a football standpoint, the move made sense for Philadelphia.
Michael was activated from the exempt list in September 2009 and added to the Eagles’ active roster. In Week 13, he threw for a touchdown and ran for another against his old team, the Falcons. It was the first time he reached the end zone since 2006. Michael was a solid citizen all year, and in December 2009, Michael was the Ed Block Courage Award recipient for the Eagles, an award voted by teammates. The award honors players who “exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.” Michael said of the award,
On February 15, 2010, the Eagles tagged Michael as their franchise player. He signed a one-year contract in March 2011. Shortly thereafter, in August 2011, Michael and the Eagles extended their commitments by agreeing to a six-year deal.