Weight Between His Shoulders
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Marcus Vick has long lived in the shadows of his older brother, former Virginia Tech all-American and current Atlanta Falcons star Michael Vick. But as he prepares for his first season as the Hokies' starting quarterback, Marcus faces not only the legacy left by Michael but also the expectations of being the quarterback even his brother hasn't yet become -- the electrifying, super-human passer created by NFL marketing gurus, video games and television commercials.
"Man, a lot of people don't realize there's a lot of stress that comes with having that last name," cornerback Jimmy Williams said.
No one knows that better than Marcus Vick, who arrived on the Virginia Tech campus more than a year after his older brother was the No. 1 pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL draft.
But after a redshirt freshman season that included several spectacular flashes -- a 46-yard touchdown pass to Ernest Wilford in an upset of then-No. 2 Miami; a 36-yard touchdown catch from Bryan Randall against California in the Insight Bowl -- Vick was exiled to obscurity last fall while the Hokies were winning the ACC in their first season in the conference and his brother was leading the Falcons to within one victory of the Super Bowl. Following his second arrest after the 2003 season, Virginia Tech suspended him from school for the entire 2004 season. Vick re-enrolled in classes in January and won the Hokies' starting quarterback job during spring practice.
"It feels really great to be back," said Vick, a 21-year-old junior. "You can never take things for granted. You've really got to keep your eyes open, watch who your friends are and watch what you're doing out in public."
One of the nation's top high school quarterbacks at Warwick High in Newport News, Va., Marcus Vick is used to being the center of attention. As good as Michael Vick was during his three-year career at Tech -- he was college football's most exciting player as a redshirt freshman in 1999, leading the Hokies to their first undefeated regular season and a spot in the national championship game -- his younger brother was supposed to be even better, regardless of whether that was realistic expectation for anyone.
"He's Michael Vick's brother so naturally everybody wants to compare him to Michael Vick, which is kind of an unfair comparison," Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers said. "Michael was a number one pick in the NFL draft, he was at the Heisman Trophy banquet, he played for a national championship. Not too many guys get to do all that. . . .
"In terms of [Marcus] being under the microscope, there's no question. The kid has celebrity status, whether he likes it or not. Consequently, everything he does is going to be magnified. Obviously, he has given people ammunition to be on his case. He's heard enough about the company he keeps and the decisions he makes, ad nauseam. Marcus wants to have a good life. He knows in order to have a good life, he's in charge of that. He's got to make good decisions to have a good life."
Crime and Punishment
In May 2004, Vick, Hokies tailback Mike Imoh and wide receiver Brenden Hill were each convicted of three misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors for serving alcohol to 14- and 15-year-old girls in an apartment Vick and Hill shared. Two months later, Vick was charged with reckless driving and possession of marijuana, which led to his season-long suspension. Vick's arrests and suspension made national news, partly because of his brother's fame.
During the time he was away from football, Vick stayed away from the public eye. He split time between his mother's home in Newport News and his brother's mansion in suburban Atlanta. He attended several of the Falcons' home games, but rarely watched the Hokies play and seldom talked to his teammates and coaches. It was a painful time, Vick said, and he admits wondering whether he had thrown away his once-promising career.
"I just wondered if I'd be back," Vick said.