In a time of self-quarantine and social distancing, there is no better time to relive the great moments of sports through the countless documentaries available to be watched and streamed.
One of the many documentaries that are on the ESPN App and ESPN+ is “Vick,” a two-part 30 for 30 documentary that examines the career of former Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick.
Through his life, director Stanley Nelson explains topics like poverty, friendship, race and power. Nelson interviewed a myriad of people, from childhood friends to former NFL coach Tony Dungy for the documentary.
Vick is a historical figure being the first Black quarterback to be a top pick in the NFL Draft in 2001. He redefined the quarterback position with his inclination to rush the ball, creating the blueprint for several quarterbacks including Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson.
The documentary brought to the forefront the history of discrimination Black football players endured when they pursued the quarterback position. In the past, their cerebral abilities were questioned, and they were moved to other positions on field.
“It’s something that we as Black people talk about all the time,” Nelson said. “Besides kickers, it’s the Whitest position in all football.”
If a Black football player dared to be a signal-caller, physicality had to take a back seat as galvanizing teammates and throwing were more sought-after qualities.
“Traditionally quarterbacks, Black quarterbacks especially, would be punished for being athletic,” Nelson said. “They’d say “okay, we’re gonna make you a running back or we’re gonna make you into a defensive back, I’m gonna make you into a receiver,””
Vick’s high school coach would refuse to speak to college coaches who did not want him to play quarterback for their program, according to Nelson. At Virginia Tech, Vick racked up 3299 passing yards and 1299 rushing yards. He turned heads during the 2000 Sugar Bowl BCS National Championship.
The documentary showed footage of the commentators of that game singing Vick’s praises although the Hokies lost 46-29. Bobby Bowden, the head coach of Florida State called Vick “the quarterback of the future.”
Vick bested his opponents with speedy scrambles and deep passes. Plays like that can be easily taken for granted by fans who follow the NFL in recent years with Cam Newton and Jackson making big scramble plays.
Friendship is another strong topic; Vick showed a profound loyalty to his childhood friends which could be a positive quality.
“[Vick]wanted to bring those friends along with him and that’s something we admire in this country,” Nelson said. “The poignant thing about the film is it makes you think “What do you do?” Do you have to cut your friends off?… That might not have happened if Michael had just cut off his friends from childhood.”
Vick admitted to having a big posse around him when he played for Atlanta. While he wanted his friends to experience a life beyond Newport News, his coach Dan Reeves would warn him and his friends about the company Vick kept.
News of the dog fighting scandal has taken the place of Vick’s athletic achievements in the media. After serving his time in jail, Vick was able to play in the NFL again. While the league has embraced Vick, there are people who refuse to forgive him.
When news broke of Vick coaching in the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl, people created and signed petitions to have him step down. Stanley believes he served his time.
“His punishment was above and beyond anything anybody has ever served for dog fighting,” Stanley said. “He paid back everybody … he has been speaking out on behalf of animal rights ever since and he still does.”
The documentary “Vick” humanizes a profound player whose achievements were marred by a jail sentence. The story of Michael Vick shows an important part of the history of Black quarterbacks in the NFL.