Hokie Homage To The Best: Mike Vick’s Two Seasons In Blacksburg
The long and illustrious history of Virginia Tech football can essentially be split into two categories; Before Michael Vick and After Michael Vick. The arrival of the Newport News native reenergized an already electric fan base, and his exploits on the field soon catapulted Virginia Tech to the top of the BCS rankings and right into the middle of the bright spotlight of national TV. Many fans consider 1999 to be one of the greatest seasons in Hokie history, and they were only a few bounces away from the school’s first National Championship in Vick’s first season under center.
It seems absolutely comical in hindsight, but head coach Frank Beamer opted to redshirt Vick during his first season on campus in 1998 in hopes of investing the year toward what was expected to be a handful of epic seasons. Beamer only got two out of Vick before he took off for the monetarily greener pastures of the National Football League, but in those few dozen games, college football fans all over the world bared witness to one of the greatest talents ever to play the quarterback position.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to even win the Heisman Trophy following the 2012 season, but Vick put together what is arguably the best freshman campaign by a quarterback in the history of Division I college football throughout the fall of 1999. Opposing defenses unfortunate enough to draw Virginia Tech on their 1999 regular season schedule were simply not equipped for the speed, strength and agility that Michael Vick possessed. He was an absolute monster on the ground while executing read options and other designed quarterback runs, often blasting through traffic at the line of scrimmage and never looking back.
Defenders that attempted to take him down in the secondary were often juked or stymied with powerful stiffarms. When defensive coordinators would put 10 men in the box, Vick would simply drop back a few steps and fire a dart over the middle to one of his tight ends running down a seam or toss a deeper ball down the sidelines to a receiver who had sprung free. He quickly demonstrated one of the strongest arms in all of college football, completing nearly 60 passes for an average of over 11 yards per toss in his 1999 campaign.
Vick led the Hokies to an undefeated 1999 regular season, besting four ranked teams in the process. His exploits eventually led the Hokies to a #2 ranking and an opportunity at the National Championship, held at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans’ Superdome. Virginia Tech was caught a bit off guard by the #1 overall ranked Florida State Seminoles, but Vick was able to rally the troops for three consecutive touchdowns, which allowed them to take a slim 29 – 28 lead into the fourth quarter. The final 15 minutes were not memorable ones for Virginia Tech fans, but Vick had clearly brought the team into the national spotlight while getting the VT football team the closest it had ever been in their well over 100 years of playing college football.
Vick’s statistical levels tapered off in the following season as defenses focused their entire game plan around stopping the dynamic quarterback. He experienced the only regular season loss of his college career in early November against the Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl in Florida, but he still led the team to another 11-victory season. Vick’s presence at the school led to a massive influx of recruits hopeful to wear the same colors as one of the greatest college football players in history, and his success at the professional level despite an up-and-down life off the field is a testament to his abilities. He remains a favorite on campus and among Virginia Tech fans, who are always ready to recognize his huge impact on the football program and the University as a whole.