Va. Tech's Vick makes name for himself

Hokies quarterback emerges from shadow of his famous brother


Few college quarterbacks have come into their first season as a starter with the kind of expectations that follow Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick. It is nothing new, considering the kind of scrutiny Vick has already faced.

Ever since he was growing up in Newport News, Va., Vick's progress - and his missteps - have been measured against those of his big brother, Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl quarterback Michael Vick.

But after seemingly falling off the precipice called fame last year when he was arrested twice in a five-month period and suspended from school for a semester, the younger Vick has emerged a star in his own right.

Going into tonight's nationally televised game against Maryland in College Park, the 21-year old redshirt junior quarterback has led the Hokies to a 6-0 start and a No. 3 national ranking.

"There were times when I wondered if I would ever get back [to Virginia Tech]," Vick said by telephone from Blacksburg earlier this week. "I'm back now, and I'm trying to make everything count."

The spate of off-field troubles, which began when Vick was charged with serving alcohol to a minor and later arrested for reckless driving and possession of marijuana, have been pushed to the background. Vick served his punishment, plea-bargaining the first charge down from a 30-day jail sentence to 24 hours of community service and a $2,250 fine. He received another 24 hours of community service and lost his driver's license for six months after the second incident.

Now when Vick's name is mentioned, it's for a string of glittering performances that have resulted in him being ranked second in the country in pass efficiency and fifth in pass completion percentage. It started with Vick making some key plays in a season-opening, nationally televised win at North Carolina State, and has continued as he and the Hokies steamroll through their schedule.

"I'm proud and excited with the way he's led this football team, but I thought he had it all along," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said last week. "Two years ago when he was playing some, he showed great promise.

"He's worked hard during the summer with his weights, he's worked hard in the video room to be mentally ready for things, and now it's coming together on the football field."

Beamer has tried not to make comparisons between the Vicks, which is difficult given that Marcus often resembles a right-handed version of his famous brother.

Those comparisons will only mushroom if the Hokies stay unbeaten and in contention for a place in the Rose Bowl, this season's BCS championship game, since it was in the January 2000 title game that Michael Vick's star rose dramatically in a losing effort against Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.

"I think they're in the same category, that's what I've always said," Beamer said. "Marcus is going to be known as Marcus Vick before it's all over, if he continues to improve like he is right now, and not Michael Vick's brother. If he develops his ability, they'll know Marcus for Marcus."

Long before Michael Vick became a star at Warwick High School, an All-American at Virginia Tech and the most exciting player in the NFL, his little brother's game was being discussed and dissected. Pooh Johnson, who as the athletic director at the Hampton Roads Boys and Girls Club helped coached the Vicks when they joined the club's football program at the age of 8, noticed one difference right away.

"They were both fast, but Marcus liked to run over people. Michael tried to finesse you," Johnson said recently. "Marcus had an Earl Campbell mentality."

By the time Marcus Vick arrived at Warwick, the fall after his brother graduated, coach Tommy Reamon was quite familiar with him. Reamon played the younger Vick at wide receiver as a freshman, and for much of his sophomore year, until the team's starting quarterback had secured a college scholarship.

Reamon made his own comparisons.

"Marcus needed a lot more tuning fundamentally [than Michael]," Reamon said. "We dealt with that immediately. Those are some of the things you're talking about today, how accurate Marcus is. He's polished because fundamentally we got a hold of him really early."

That trait has been at the forefront of Vick's success this season and his passing stats through his first six starts are even better than Michael Vick's were over the same span.

Marcus Vick has completed a higher percentage of his passes (68.2 to 60.0)), has thrown for more yards (1,043 to 873), more touchdowns (10 to seven) and fewer interceptions (two in 107 attempts to three in 78).

Not surprisingly, where Michael Vick was more dynamic was in running the ball (57 carries for 279 yards with five touchdowns to Marcus' 55 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns).

The only stat that is the same is the team's 6-0 record.

Though most of Marcus Vick's teammates have only met his brother on a casual basis, if at all, they understand the pressure he faces.

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