Originally written on Player Perspective  |  Last updated 11/10/14

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 06: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes upfield against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 6, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Reading through the Sports Illustrated Vaults are how I like to spend some of my free time. Some of the best and most crisply written sports pieces lie in the internet pages of SI.com and I wish I could read every story. Anyway, the other night Timbaland’s E! True Hollywood Story came on television and it got me reminiscing about growing up in Tidewater Virginia and what it was like for me–the good and the bad.

One of the good things was seeing people from around the area make it big in entertainment and sports. I remember my friends and I used to do talent shows hoping to be discovered by somebody like Teddy Riley who was also from Tidewater and produced and sang in the groups “Guy” and “Blackstreet.” Other names from Tidewater ring bells too: Missy Elliott, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (together known as the Neptunes), super hot producer Lex Luger (who is from my hometown of Suffolk), and sports stars like Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Bruce Smith, Aaron Brooks, Deangelo Hall, Ronald Curry and Michael Vick.

When I was growing up Ronald Curry was the “it” guy and people didn’t talk too much about Vick although I remember him pretty well. This SI.com story  provided an opportunity for me to dip even further into my memory bank. I still remember the lead up to the Hokies going to the Sugar Bowl, it was all we talked about at school.  I even remember my, now deceased, former neighbor had been a teacher of Vick’s and Vick had made sure that he got a ticket to the game. Sidebar: I undertook a similar memory dump when I watched Allen Iverson’s 30 for 30 documentary which brought up a lot of memories about Tidewater and my complex relationship with my home.

The most striking thing about the SI.com story on Vick is the comments that Vick’s mother and former coaches and teammates make about him. They talk about how sweet and polite and “good” he is and how that it is so uncommon. I think people forget that when Vick was found to be running a dogfighting organization, the perception of him, at the time wasn’t of some bad boy athlete. In fact, some of his previous negative coverage in the news was almost dusted immediately under the rug–although I think most of us remember him flipping the crowd the bird and the whole “Ron Mexico” story.

When I read stories like this I’m reminded of how complex people are, and how we tend to get pulled in different directions. There are competing priorities, thoughts, intentions and yes, ego sometimes trumps common sense. And I think that Vick is a example of what can happen when that occurs. Reading this story now, for some of you who are unfamiliar with his best, will either put Vick’s life in context OR it will confuse you even more.

Life is funny that way.

I encourage you to read the whole article, but I’ll post my favorite excerpt from the story on Vick’s admiration of Ronald Curry:

Two years ago, when Vick first reported as a freshman, he was so overwhelmed by the complexity of Virginia Tech’s multiple-set offense and its demands on the quarterback that he considered asking to be moved to another position. “I’m going to tell coach I want to play receiver,” he confided to fellow quarterback Meyer during preseason practice. “This is too much. I can’t take it all in.”

“He’d come out to practice, and his eyes would be big and wild and full of stars,” says Meyer. “He was just awed by everything. Michael didn’t even recognize how good he was. He didn’t understand that he had the tools to do whatever he wanted.”

“Ain’t no way I can learn all this,” Vick would mumble to himself in practice.

Rickey Bustle, the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, pulled Vick aside one day and told him to settle down. “You’re a freshman,” Vick recalls Bustle saying. “You’re 18 years old, and you just got here. Why do you expect to do so much?”

It was a question Vick couldn’t easily answer. At Warwick High, Vick had been one of the state’s top recruits, coveted by major college programs nationwide. But he played in the same district and at the same position asHampton’s Ronald Curry, who in 1997-98 was the most heralded schoolboy athlete in the country. Vick so admired the way Curry played that he mimicked some of his moves, and once, when Curry got hurt, Vick’s family sent him a get-well card. “I lived in his shadow,” says Vick. “At the end of my senior year I ended up second-team everything. The papers would have a huge picture of Ronald Curry, with poor little Mike Vick down in the corner about the size of a stamp. I never held it against Curry—just the opposite, I was happy for him. But being second was something I had to deal with, and deal with a lot.”

 

Sidebar: anyone remember scouts trying to convince us that Vick’s brother Marcus would be better than him one day? Yeah.

 

 

 

 

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