Michael Vick’s Playing Days Aren’t Over
Mike Vick may be retired from the NFL, but he’s still playing professional football. Flag football, that is. Vick, 36, recently signed on as a player and advisor with the American Flag Football League, a fledgling 7-on-7 league that aims to launch eight teams in 2018. Vick will play in the AFFL’s test drive, a launch game in San Jose on June 27, and he’ll be joined by former NFL running back Justin Forsett. The MMQB spoke to Vick about his passion for flag football, about his quarterback daughter living up to the family name, why guys play with concussions in the NFL, and his desire to coach at the highest level.
KAHLER: What made you want to join a flag football league?
VICK: I think football comes in all different forms. I started out playing flag football when I was younger, and I also played intramurals when I was in high school, so when this opportunity came about, I didn’t have to think too hard about it. My daughter plays flag football in middle school, and she’s the quarterback, and I thought it was just a great fit. I thought it was another way to stay involved in the game of football and it’s a great opportunity for guys that want to continue to have progression in their careers. Some guys careers get cut short, they may not be finished with football, and it might not be out of their system and they want to keep playing and this will give them another outlet.
KAHLER: Wait… your daughter is a quarterback?
VICK: My daughter, Jada, she’s in sixth grade. She’s actually in middle school, but she’s the high school varsity quarterback for the all-girls flag football team, so that goes to show how good she is and how good she can throw the ball. She understands the game and I think it is an outlet for women as well. I sit back and watch the girls play. I went to every game this season and they play hard, they play to a championship. They didn’t go this year, obviously she was young, but she made a lot of plays and it was just a great joy to watch.
KAHLER: Was she interested in playing quarterback because she’s seen you play? Seems like Jada has quite the advantage over the other kids who don’t have former NFL quarterbacks as fathers.
VICK: I think out of about four or five other quarterbacks, who were all freshman through seniors, she won the job, so it says a lot about what a Vick can do. When she was growing up, there were times when I didn’t have anybody to throw the ball too. My son wasn’t around and it was just me and my daughter, and we would sit in the house and just throw the ball and play catch. I would be upstairs and she would be downstairs and we just throw the ball to one another. She paid more attention to my highlights, and I think as a role model, I’m considered hers, because she has watched me play the game of football for the last 10 years. She watched all my highlights and she admires my body of work, and I’m very grateful for that.
KAHLER: Is this a high school sport or club sport?
VICK: It’s a high school sport in South Florida, they have a whole league. Every high school has a girls flag football team; there were about nine teams.
KAHLER: Do your daughter’s opponents know they are playing against Mike Vick’s daughter? Have you ever heard opposing parents talk about it?
VICK: Yeah they do, they know. It is evident when she throws the ball. She likes the little fame that she’s got in school because the sixth, seventh and eighth graders go to school with the high schoolers, so she’s got a little fame in school and that’s good for her confidence.
KAHLER: Last season, Drew Brees told Peter King that he doesn’t want his sons to play tackle football until middle school. He’s a big supporter of flag football when kids are young. Would you let your son start off with tackle football?
VICK: My son isn’t into sports, but if I had a choice, I would start them out in flag. If I had to do it all over again, I would have started out in flag. As a kid, we played tackle football in the neighborhood, so getting tackled wasn’t a big deal to me. Over the course of time, I started to realize that flag football and 7-on-7 will always be prominent because it’s all about recognition—you get to read defenses as a quarterback, as a receiver. It’s what people come to see. And that’s what this league will give you, that’s what seven-on-seven will give you and that’s what flag football gives you.
KAHLER: The AFFL aims to have eight teams. Do you know which team you will be playing for?
VICK: It’s just an inaugural game that we are putting together first. It’s a demo game. As the league progresses, then we will start putting teams together. This is the inaugural game, going to be played in San Jose, California. It’s a trial run, we’re trying to make it as visible as possible and get a great response from it.
KAHLER: Do you ever see a day in your lifetime where tackle football isn’t played anymore?
VICK: No, it’s the greatest game in the world, next to golf, in my eyes. I love basketball and I played baseball, and I admire what those guys do as professionals, but NFL football will always live on and it’s been that way for the last 70 or 80 years. Football is not going anywhere.
KAHLER: Is it realistic to think people will actually come to watch a professional flag football game, without the physical contact that defines the NFL?
VICK: I think it is going to have it’s differences. I don’t expect to have crowds of 70,000, because that’s how many people pay to see contact, they pay to see the passing of the ball, and they pay to see their favorite players. It’s more so an attraction than anything, but a crowd of maybe 15,000 or 20,000, I think that’s feasible, depending on if you’ve got the right teams, if it’s built the right way and the structure is the right way and people understand it. Anything is possible. You never know until you try.
KAHLER: How solidly are you retired? Would you come out of retirement if an NFL team called?
VICK: I would have to make sure that my body was in tip-top shape before I went back and played in the NFL. I am pretty content with what I have done and what I have accomplished. I think my mindset is more about giving back to the kids who need some kind of encouragement and to be around them and let them know what it takes to play in the NFL, the conduct and the discipline that you have to have to play in the NFL. The attitude, the focus, and I think that is more important now than ever as far as making the game a better game. So that’s what I’m focused on, but I’ll always love the game of football and always try to stay in shape.
KAHLER: What else have you been doing in retirement? Has it been a strange adjustment to regular life or does it feel natural that you’ve moved on?
VICK: It was natural. I feel like I was one year away from moving on, on my own terms. Because I played 13 seasons, that was a long 13 seasons, and it was a grind. I enjoyed it, but towards the end it was just starting to be more and more difficult because I had problems with my ankle. It just restrained me and I wanted to take some time off, spend time with my family and start to reassess my situation. I have my combine tour where we go to 10 different cities and host [high school football prospects], I’m about to launch my clothing line, V7 Athletics, which I had years ago, and that’s going to resurface. I’m looking to do some joint ventures with Nike down the road. I’ve got a lot going on, a lot of appearances and speaking engagements, so I’m staying pretty busy.
KAHLER: Were you surprised that a team didn’t sign you last year? Were you in close talks with any team? Any interest?
VICK: I wasn’t in talks with any teams last year. That would have been my 14th season, and my agent and myself, we really didn’t push it like we could have. I could have petitioned all year to play, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t have the energy to do it. I understand what the game is about, I know it is constantly in progression and teams are always looking for the next best thing, and my ankle wasn’t in the best shape. I felt like in Pittsburgh, I gave them enough, but I couldn’t give them as much as I wanted to. I just needed some time to rest and have surgery, get the surgery out of the way and see how I feel after that.
KAHLER: Was it hard to watch the NFL last season?
VICK: Not at all. I watched up until the Super Bowl. I enjoyed every minute, I enjoyed every weekend. Watching the NFL this year, I almost felt like a kid again, watching the games with no pressure. It’s a ton of pressure when you play in the NFL. Your success is dictated by who you are around and the players that you play with, and sometimes you don’t end up in the best situations and that can be hard too. It makes it easier for you to move on.
KAHLER: You’re still a big Falcons fan. How disappointed were you when Atlanta lost the Super Bowl?
VICK: I watched them all the way to the end. That was tough to see that take place the way it did, but I was so proud of the team, if anything. Nobody really gave them an opportunity, nobody gave them a shot, nobody believed in them, and they proved a lot of people wrong. I think they will be a really good team for years to come.
KAHLER: Your Falcons prediction for 2017?
VICK: I got them in the playoffs and what they do from the there is all up to them. I got us going a long way this year, a long way.
KAHLER: I recently read that you are interested in coaching and have been discussing it with Andy Reid. What interests you in the coaching side of the game?
VICK: I work with kids all the time at my combines and my camps and I’m always coaching. Coaching quarterbacks, coaching receivers, coaching defensive backs—I can coach all positions except the offensive line. I’ve just been picking Andy’s brain. I want to know what the coaching world is like, I want to have a career somewhere and I am using this time right now to get accustomed and get acclimated to being around kids and understanding attitudes and what it takes to help a kid progress in the game of football, on and off the field. I know Andy is the master at that. He did it for me, so now I’m just picking his brain.
KAHLER: What is your dream coaching position?
VICK: I always thought of myself as a quarterbacks coach, very in tune with the offense and what’s going on and try to learn as much as I can. I played 13 seasons and played in five or six different offenses, so I know concepts and I know what it takes to beat defenses, so the more I learn, the better I’ll get and the more I’m around it, the better coach I’ll be.
KAHLER: Gisele Bündchen’s statement that Tom Brady had an unreported concussion last season opened a dialogue about NFL players purposely not reporting concussions in order to stay on the field. In your own career, was there ever a time where you didn’t report a concussion or an injury to try to stay on the field and not jeopardize your job?
VICK: That’s a tough question, because as competitors sometimes we play through pain. And sometimes we don’t know if we have a concussion or not. We might get hit, we might get dinged and we bounce back up. We might be a little dizzy when we bounce back up but it’s not showing, so yeah, maybe we do have signs sometimes, but if we are hurting bad enough, we’ll lay down. We’ll stay down on the ground. If you don’t feel good, you won’t get up regardless of your backup or how good he is, you will lay down. As a competitor, we are taught to get up, that’s just in our DNA. I’ve done it plenty of times. I’ve played in games where I know I’ve had a concussion, early in my career. But, hey, concussion protocol wasn’t as good as it is now, and honestly, I wouldn’t have cared. I would have kept playing. But it had nothing to do with my backup, it was more about my heart and my will.
KAHLER: With the current attention on concussions and knowing the cumulative effect of multiple concussions, would you do the same today?
VICK: I can’t tell you what I would do if the game was on the line. I really can’t answer that question. I know the competitive side of me would stay in the game, unless the doctor said, no, you can’t go. And my backup should be just as good, so if I had confidence in him, that would dictate my decision-making.
KAHLER: There are a lot of “what ifs” surrounding your career, because of the two years you spent in prison. Do you think you had football potential that you never reached?
VICK: Yeah, I think I was really growing and maturing into the quarterback that I wanted to be. Growing into a man, not a young man. I was really getting my core values in order, and it was just a tad bit too late, which is life. I went into my ordeal and my whole situation, as crazy it may sound, with an open mind in becoming a better person and it think it helped me when I came home from prison.
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