VICK! VICK! VICTORY!- Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick
Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick is only a sophomore, but he’s the player to watch in the Heisman race.
By Kim Goss
Published: Winter 2000
Does football get any better than this? That’s the question Virginia Tech’s All-American quarterback Michael Vick must be asking himself as he continues his quest for college football’s greatest individual award, the Heisman Trophy. Vick has every right to bask in the glow of celebrity because, with the exception of being defeated by Florida State in the National Championship game last year, he has accomplished just about everything a college quarterback can dream of--certainly far more than could be expected of a freshman.
Let’s start with some numbers. In the air, Vick set a NCAA record in passing efficiency for freshmen (180.37) and single-season school records for highest yards passing per completion (20.4), per attempt (12.1) and completion percentage (59.2). He also threw 12 touchdown passes. On the ground, the player Sports Illustrated calls “Mr. Electric” rushed for 585 yards and eight TD's. Putting his numbers together, Vick’s 2,425 yards in total offense led the Big East conference and is ranked as the second-highest total in his school’s history for a single season. And did I mention that he was only a freshman at the time?
With those impressive stats, it’s no wonder that last year Vick was awarded an ESPY as the College Football Performer of the Year and prompted ESPN’s Chris Fowler to eloquently say, “This kid has a monstrously huge future in this game.” As for last year’s Heisman trophy, an award usually reserved for seniors, Vick finished third in the voting behind Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne and Georgia Tech’s Joe Hamilton.
Vick’s prodigious talent is one reason he was able to lead the Hokies to their first undefeated season (11-0) and a place in the national title game against Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. Although his team was defeated 46-29, Vick made an impressive personal showing with a balanced offensive attack that included 97 yards rushing and 225 yards passing. In a post-game interview, FSU coach Bobby Bowden said that although his team had prepared well to oppose Vick’s formidable talent, when game day came Vick played far better than they had anticipated. “There isn’t a darn thing you can do about Vick,” says Bowden. “I knew he was good, but I didn’t know he was that good.”
With Vick’s first college season behind him, and after a disciplined off-season that made him even bigger, faster and stronger, the talented 20-year-old has established himself in the media as the player most highly favored to be awarded the Heisman. He is the first-team, pre-season All-American selection for Athlon, Playboy, Blue Ribbon, Lindy’s, The Sporting News, Rivals.com and Collegefootballnews.com. Mark Blaudschun of The Sporting News said that in quarterback Michael Vick, “Virginia Tech has a quarterback who any coach would trade half a dozen scholarships to get.”
Although the team lost 11 starters, including eight on defense, Virginia Tech has earned the confidence of the national media. The Sporting News had seven VT players ranked nationally in its pre-season poll, including offensive tackle Dave Kadela, whom they picked 7th for the Outland Trophy, and Andre’ Davis, whom they predicted would place 6th for the Biletnikoff. The Hokies, who have gone 64-20 over the past seven years (which ranks them as the ninth winningest team in the national during that period), made just about everyone’s pre-season top 20 list, including a ranking of 10th by Street & Smith. “We’ve worked hard to raise our program to a new level,” says head coach Frank Beamer. “What happens now is you have to stay on top.”
Raising a Star
Although his growing reputation as one of the most talented college football quarterbacks of all time is a surprise to many, Vick was destined to be a star. His father, Michael Boddie, who participated in track and football in high school, instilled his competitive spirit into his son when playing sports with him as a young boy. In fact, Vick says it was when he was just seven years old and throwing the football around with his father that he realized he had what it takes to be a champion.
Vick attended Ferguson High School in Newport News, Virginia, as a freshman. The following year, when Ferguson closed, he transferred to Warwick High and became a three-year starter. His high school numbers include 4,846 yards and 43 touchdowns in the air, and 1,048 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. Such results got him listed as the number-five quarterback choice in SuperPrep.
Vick was heavily recruited by Syracuse, but because he didn’t favor Syracuse’s option-oriented offense, Vick enrolled in Virginia Tech as a sociology major. His football coach at Warwick High, Tommy Reamon, was instrumental in getting Virginia Tech to promise to redshirt Vick his first year. Reamon believed that Vick wasn’t ready for that level of responsibility. This turned out to be a tough agreement for Virginia Tech, as injuries to their top two quarterbacks forced them to move Nick Sorensen from free safety back to quarterback. Nevertheless, they upheld their bargain so Vick could develop confidence by practicing with the scout team. Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, who played at Penn State and later coached there, is excited about having Vick on the team. Johnson says that not only does his school’s starting quarterback have the strongest arm he’s ever seen, but noticed that he can consistently throw long with great accuracy.
Although you’d think he’d have some nervousness in his first game in Division I football, Vick didn’t show any signs of it as he introduced himself to the college ranks by running for three touchdowns against James Madison University. In that regard, offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle says that one of Vick’s greatest strengths is that he is levelheaded and doesn’t let things get to him.
Virginia Tech’s Mike Gentry, Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Performance, is especially impressed with Vick’s attitude. “The most special thing about Michael Vick is not his outstanding athletic ability but the fact that with all the hoopla surrounding him, he continues to work hard and does not invite special attention. He just wants to be one of the players.”
When Vick came to VT he had some good numbers in the weightroom for a freshman quarterback. At 195 pounds, he had a 270 bench press, a 34-inch vertical jump, and ran a 4.42 forty (hand timed). Impressive results at any level. After the first year under Coach Gentry’s direction, Vick added 50 pounds to his bench, four inches to his vertical, and dropped his forty time to 4.33. Those numbers have taken another a big jump in the off-season. Since coming to Virginia Tech, Vick has added 17 pounds of muscle, can bench 340, squat 515, power clean 280, push jerk 310, vertical jump 41 inches and run a 4.25 forty.
Although some strength coaches have a conservative weight training program for their skill players, especially starting quarterbacks such as Vick, Coach Gentry doesn’t believe in drastically changing his training for his skill athletes. “We don’t train our quarterbacks any differently,” says Gentry. “The most important thing for developing ‘short speed’ is leg strength.”
Just as Vick was able to ease into the football program, Coach Gentry has designed a program that gets his players ready for some serious lifting. One of Gentry’s first priorities with freshmen is cleaning up their lifting technique, especially with squats, and introducing them to speed-strength training with an emphasis on the Olympic lifts. For example, Gentry says he’ll start their off-season training with the hang clean and the push press, then progress through the year to the power clean and the push jerk. He also emphasizes agility training, being especially big on the BFS dot drill, as well as flexibility work.
During the off-season, the players spend only three days a week in the weightroom for about 90 minutes. That’s it. “We believe that