With the announcement of Michael Vick’s retirement, this lifelong falcons fan found it necessary to recount his career. Vick is a very interesting case, seeing as he was both the most loved and most hated man in Atlanta. While he has shown his love for the city in his open letter to Atlanta, published in The Players Tribune, he will always have his haters who doubt the authenticity of his remorse. All that can be said is that Vick forever changed the Falcons organization for better and for worse.
The boy from Newport News, Virginia came onto the football scene in a flash as the best player in College football as Virginia Tech’s quarterback. He led a previously anonymous school to a National Championship appearance. While they lost to Florida State, it was clear that Vick was destined for greatness. The next step towards that greatness for Vick took place on April 22, 2001 when he was drafted first overall by Atlanta. Over the course of his Falcons career, he would dazzle the NFL with his mix of speed, agility, and play making ability that had yet to be seen at his level. It was a sight to behold, especially for this white kid from Savannah, Georgia. Whether it was playing as Vick on Madden, or putting on that number seven jersey, there was something innately special about him. It seemed like a career destined for greatness, but fate had other ideas.
Even before the events that ended Vick’s Falcon career, you could see the demise on the horizon. A lack of work ethic, the Hip-Hop lifestyle, and an unfortunate double fingered salute set off more than a few alarm bells. But even after all that, I still didn’t want to believe what he had done; no one did. Lots of people love football, and even more people love dogs, so the thought of such horrible things happening to them was unthinkable. What made it even worse was the fact that Vick openly lied to the people who trusted him the most; his fans, his team, his owner, and most importantly, his city. After the whole ordeal was over, Vick found himself in Leavenworth and the Falcons found themselves in disarray.
While Vick sat in prison, the Falcons had to rebuild. I vividly remember being unable to stomach what my Falcons had become. That’s understandable when you have to watch the likes of Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich helm the Falcons offense. What made it worse was what would occur a few years later. It was one thing having your favorite player be taken away, leaving behind a husk of a franchise, but it’s another to see him go to one of your biggest rivals. Now, I don’t blame Vick for joining the Eagles; the Falcons had moved on by drafting a young quarterback from Boston College by the name of Matt Ryan, but I wouldn’t blame the Falcons fans for feeling betrayed. Vick would have early success with the Eagles before bouncing around between the Jets and the Steelers.
This brings the story full circle. With Vick’s retirement, one of the greatest “what if” careers has come to an abrupt end. And that brings us to Vick’s open letter. Its no secret that Atlanta hasn’t been a great sports city. We don’t have the national appeal of teams like the Patriots or Yankees. We don’t attract superstars or generational talents, but one thing we had was Vick. At the heart of every fan is a undeniable love for their team. They want the players to care as much about their team as they do. Vick will never win a Super Bowl. He will never win an MVP award and probably won’t get into Canton, but what he showed with his open letter is that he cares. He cares about his team, he cares about his fans, and he cares about his city. Atlanta may not have four Super Bowl titles. We may not have twenty-seven World Series titles or seventeen NBA Finals Championships. What we do have is a superstar who loved his city as much as it loved him.