Michael Vick was the ultimate cheat code.
He had an unparalleled combination of speed and arm talent, making him a nightmare for every defensive coordinator come Sunday.
In an age where traditional pocket passers ranked supreme, Vick’s dual-threat ability was revolutionary.
He single-handled revitalized the Atlanta Falcons and brought the franchise back to relevance.
His rise to fame, though, was a double-edged sword that cast a shadow on his resume.
Controversy followed everywhere he played, severely damaging his image as a player and a person.
However, Vick rebuilt his reputation, and fans still remember him fondly for his jaw-dropping athleticism.
Here is the complete story of one of the game’s most dynamic players.
Vick first started to get national attention as a teenager at Warwick High School in Newport News, Virginia.
His throwing and rushing ability earned him a scholarship to nearby Virginia Tech.
Legendary head coach Frank Beamer protected his prized recruit by redshirting him his freshman year.
In his first year as the starter, though, Vick showed just how unstoppable a force he was.
He led the Hokies to an 11-0 record but fell short in the national title game against Florida State.
(2000) Mike Vick highlights from the Virginia Tech vs. Florida State National Championship game.
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) September 4, 2018
Vick set the NCAA record for a freshman in passer efficiency (180.4) and took home the first-ever Archie Griffin Award, given to the nation’s most valuable player.
He also finished third in the Heisman race in an era where freshman players were rarely ever considered for the award.
In his 2000 campaign, Vick continued his torrid pace, but a late-season injury prevented the Hokies from playing in another title game.
After ending the season as the MVP in a win over Clemson in the Gator Bowl, Vick declared for the NFL Draft.
In just two years as the starter, he racked up over 4,400 total yards and 38 touchdowns.
Widely regarded as the top overall prospect in the 2001 draft class, Vick further cemented his status by running a 4.33 40 yard dash at his pro day.
Enamored by his abilities, the Atlanta Falcons traded up to the number one pick to select Vick.
It marked the first time in league history that a team chose an African-American quarterback with the first overall pick.
In his rookie year, Vick saw action in eight games and only started in two games.
But by year two, the Falcons made the smart decision and gave him full control of the offense.
From 2002 to 2006, Vick led Atlanta to two playoff appearances and made the Pro-Bowl three times.
He was a human highlight reel unlike anyone had ever seen before, a premier talent that filled stadiums everywhere he went.
He wrecked defensive gameplans with his propensity to break from the pocket and improvise.
While Vick never developed into an accurate passer, his scrambling alone made up for his throwing issues.
He set a single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 173 yards in 2002 and became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season in 2006.
However, Vick’s star burned just as bright off the field, and soon his face was everywhere from magazine covers to the television.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 16, 2017
— Kyle Carney (@k014c) May 14, 2020
Though his legacy continued to grow, there was no telling what heights he could reach.
Fall From Glory
Unfortunately, the only thing that could stop Vick was Vick himself.
A federal investigation in 2007 uncovered his involvement in a local dogfighting ring, much of which he funded.
As a result, the NFL suspended him without pay, and Vick served 23 months in prison.
Vick lost millions of dollars in sponsors and had to pay the Falcons back for his breach in contract.
Furthermore, his lavish lifestyle before his imprisonment put him in a financial hole, and he eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2008.
The Falcons eventually released him in 2009, officially making him a free agent.
With his reputation in shambles, Vick’s return to the NFL was far from guaranteed.
He was a PR nightmare, as many teams did not believe his services to be worth the public backlash.
Luckily for Vick, a few teams still believed he was worth the risk.
Vick latched onto the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2009 season, playing sparingly behind Donovan McNabb.
When McNabb was traded to Washington the next season, coach Andy Reid pegged Vick as the starter.
From there, it was as if he never missed any time.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) March 14, 2019
From 2010 to 2011, Vick looked like his old self, shredding defenses with his unbelievable talent.
Injuries began to mount following the 2012 season, though, and led to inconsistent playing time.
When it was clear that the Eagles wanted to move on, Vick became a bit of a journeyman.
He played for the New York Jets in 2014 and signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015.
While he played in the occasional spot start, he was no longer the dynamic playmaker he once was.
Vick still wished to play following his stint with the Steelers but garnered zero interest as a free agent.
In 2017, he officially retired from the league, leaving behind one of the most polarizing legacies in football history.
He still finds himself in the football scope, participating in the American Flag Football League from 2017 to 2018.
Vick currently works as an analyst on the Fox NFL Kickoff on FS1.NEXT: Should The Atlanta Falcons Move On From Matt Ryan?