- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

To outsiders he’s MV2, the younger brother of an NFL star. To himself and his Virginia Tech teammates, he’s simply Marcus Vick, a quarterback looking for redemption.

It’s impossible to miss Marcus Vick on the Virginia Tech practice field.

It’s not just the 4.26 speed that gives him away. It’s not just the double take-inducing physique, a stature and musculature so similar to his superstar older brother’s that he seems like he was created in a lab using a strand of Michael’s DNA. Nor does he stand out solely because of a right arm that must have required a three-day waiting period.

Nope, the Hokies junior quarterback jumps out at even the casual observer primarily because of his bright yellow jersey. He’s the canary in a sea of staid maroons and whites.

The no-contact jersey, of course, is a necessary precaution reserved for only particularly valued players. It screams, “Hands off. This guy’s special.”

Most quarterbacks have a certain fondness for the don’t-touch status the jersey provides. Beyond the simply practical, there’s a certain prestige to being deemed a no-contact commodity, a certain media magnetism for those team cogs colored irreplaceable.

But to Vick, the five ounces of yellow nylon feel like a tunic of chain mail.

“I’m kind of getting aggravated with this thing,” said the 6-foot, 217-pound Vick, tugging against the neckline of the yellow fabric after a recent Virginia Tech scrimmage. “It’s holding me back, kind of bringing me down.”

Frankly, Marcus Vick must feel like he’s spent half his life in a yellow jersey.

Prodigal son

When Vick makes his debut as a starter in Virginia Tech’s season-opener Sunday at N.C. State, he knows both what to expect from Wolfpack fans and what Hokies fans are expecting.

When Vick and the Hokies take the field on offense for the first time, the odd set of handcuffs is likely to start jingling in Carter-Finley Stadium. There are certain to be a few brain-flexing banners scattered about bearing some variation on the “Smoke Vick” theme. And the locals definitely will get their heckles on at the expense of the player whose two arrests in a three-month period forced the school to suspend him last season.

In May 2004, Vick, tailback Mike Imoh and reserve wideout Brenden Hill were each charged with three counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors after serving alcohol to 14- and 15-year-old girls at an apartment shared by Vick and Hill. Exactly two months later, police stopped Vick for driving recklessly and discovered marijuana in his car. Given his brother’s unforgettable career at Virginia Tech and nine-digit NFL salary, the incidents involving Marcus were national news, and the university had no choice but to send him home for a semester.

Predictably, his semester in exile was both painful and embarrassing. He found it impossible to watch the Hokies play, though they rolled to a 10-3 record and a Sugar Bowl berth behind senior quarterback Bryan Randall.

“It was rough, no doubt,” said Vick, who no longer elaborates on the subject.

Rough enough that Vick left the state, moving to Atlanta to stay with his brother for the bulk of last autumn.

“Having Mike took a lot of pressure off me. When I knew I was going to be out, I just relaxed, went down to stay with him, and it was just like we were kids again,” Marcus said. “I was going to his games, watching him and just hanging and talking with him constantly. He kind of just let me be my own man. But if things were getting out of hand or my priorities were getting out of whack, he sat me down and set the tone by telling me, ‘Hey, you can’t let yourself get distracted by this or that.’ He made sure I knew the yes and no, the right and wrong.”

Those lines of perspective and priority were less obvious to Marcus, who spent his senior year of high school living in a mansion Michael bought the family, than they were to Michael, who grew up in the Ridley Circle housing project in Newport News, Va., watching his mother work double shifts at Kmart and drive a school bus to make sure her four children never felt deprived.

Marcus was a junior at Warwick High when the Falcons made Michael the No. 1 pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. And less than a year later, at least one recruiter walked away from an interview with Marcus concerned about the impact his brother’s money was having on the blue-chip quarterback.

“The first thing I see is this four-carat earring, and you start wondering how spoiled he is,” the recruiter said. “How is he handling the financial changes? Is the drive still there?”


Marcus pulled into Blacksburg in a new BMW in the fall of 2002 and, like many college students, proceeded to spend his freshman year playing off the field. By his own admission, he went out to the clubs too often during a redshirt season. And with the notable exception of a 46-yard touchdown pass to Ernest Wilford in the team’s 31-7 annihilation of then-No. 2 Miami in 2003, his offensive contribution as a redshirt freshman also qualified as fairly forgettable. Then came the two run-ins with the law, a semester’s suspension and a deluge of negative press.

“I don’t think what he did was all that bad, but everything he did was magnified because of who he is,” All-American senior cornerback Jimmy Williams said. “Man, coming here and following in his brother’s footsteps was a difficult situation for him. His brother’s a superstar, man. He’s Michael Vick. He’s Mr. PlayStation. That’s a hard thing to deal with, you know?”

Few would doubt it.

Marcus was nicknamed MV2 before he ever took a snap at Tech. The first time he trotted onto the field at Lane Stadium, 65,115 Hokies fans expected a show worthy of the surname from Michael’s right-handed replica. They’re still waiting.

“The thing is that he doesn’t need to try and be Michael Vick or anybody else,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “He knows I want him to play like Marcus Vick. Because Marcus Vick at his best is pretty darn good.”

No one will know just how good until later this season. Warwick High coach Tommy Reamon, who mentored both Vicks as well as Aaron Brooks, always called Marcus his most talented pupil. But most opposing coaches agree Marcus has a weaker, if more accurate, arm and looks half a step slower than Michael on film.

Only outsiders, however, still question his commitment to the game and his teammates. After returning in January, Vick apologized to the team as a group for the actions leading to his suspension. He then earned Super Iron Hokie honors for his offseason work in the weight room. After watching Vick lead the team in sprints at the end of a practice, there’s little doubt who the coaches believe is the team leader. And talking to Vick’s teammates only cements that notion.

“Every year since I’ve been around him, he’s grown a little bit more mature,” Williams said. “But a lot of people don’t really get to see the real Marcus. How he really is — how dedicated to this team he is, how hard he works. To guys on the team, he’s not MV2 or whatever. He’s a regular guy with special gifts. He doesn’t act like he’s bigger or better than anybody else or nothing like that. And he’s always been like that. He never wanted all of this attention, good or bad. He just wanted to be one of us. That’s how he’s always carried himself, and that’s why we love him. To be honest with you, he probably wishes he could have another name.”

As both an acknowledgment of his de facto value and a guarantee of unwanted scrutiny, that last name is the yellow jersey that’s never coming off. But perhaps a little maturity and a fresh start will help Marcus add enough positive memories to the family legacy to turn yesterday’s confinement into tomorrow’s comfort.

“I’m just really looking forward to playing North Carolina State, getting this season started and putting the past behind me,” Vick said. “I’m all about the present and the future.”

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